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Anime Addiction and Its effect on Academic Performance on Some selected Grade IX Student in Mariano Marcos Memorial High School In partial fullfilment of requirements in Grade IX k-12 English Submitted to: CHAPTER I

Profile image of Aron Ng

Anime obsession has now captured the world's attention. Otaku is the Japanese slang term for "geek". Commonly, it is a word subjected to being a fan of anime and manga. In Japan, the word is looked down upon as a term for a person with any obsessive interest -not limited to anime and manga-sometimes bordering to extreme levels. "When these people are referred to as an "otaku", they are judged for their behaviors -and people suddenly see an "otaku" as a person unable to relate to reality". Throughout the years, there are more Otakus than there are Anime and Mangas. But technicalities and controversies often arise from popularity. According to Otaku enthusiast, Lawrence Eng, the discrimination of Otakus started with the Miyazaki incident in the year 1989. Miyazaki kidnapped and murdered 4 little girls. When he was arrested, the police found a huge collection of various anime and manga, some of it pornographic, in his apartment. The media found out about this and repeatedly pressed...

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A small research cum review of Japanese Otaku, their behavior and the effects of booming anime culture having it's impact on the otaku and soft power.

anime addiction research paper

Yuji Gushiken

From the theoretical perspective regarding communication as culture, this article focuses on the communicative dimension of cultural processes in contemporary times. Its objective is to report and discuss the widespread image of the social group referred to as Otaku, which is characterized by great ambivalence resulting from its Japanese origin and its subsequent insertion into mediatized imagery on a worldwide scale. In Japan, Otaku imagery carries the negative connotation of individuals who are fanatical about the consumption of entertainment-industry products, have little inclination for social life, and are associated with psycho-pathological and criminal behavior. In Asia and Brazil, the term Otaku has come to designate fans of Japanese pop culture but is characterized by its reference to a youth in search of informational exchanges and new modes of social interaction within urban life. It is concluded that Otaku imagery in the mundialized culture is altered to the extent that ...

Journal of Social Science and Humanities

hamdzun haron

Social problems among adolescents have been giving a huge impact on the formation of people in a community who live in the world of modern technology. Social problems are oftenly associated with fast-paced mass media that that come with information technology and sophistication. Anime is the entertainment brought by the electronic mass media for the children, youth and adults who have dominated the world of animation today. The difference in the characters, morals and cultures are believe to be a major for moral declination among teenagers. The elements of violence, sex, fantasy and superstition can be damage teenagers mind. A lot of anime studies show adversely and positive effects to the teenagers. Statistics from the Department of Statistics show the number of juvenile offenders in 2016 recorded a decline of 10.3% from 5,096 cases in 2014 to 4,569 cases in 2015. However, the number is not enough to release anxiety among the public on this issue. A pilot study was conducted on 85 ...

A Critical Study of Morality in Anime and its Effect on Young People

Stephen Reysen

Anime/manga (Japanese animation and comics) have been increasing in popularity worldwide for decades. But despite being a global phenomenon, there’s been surprisingly little psychological research formally studying its devoted fanbase. In this book we aim to do just that with an overview of nearly a decade of research by fan psychologists. Otaku and cosplayers, genre preferences, hentai, parasocial connections, motivation, personality, fanship and fandom, stigma, and well-being – this book looks at all of these topics through a psychological lens. Many of these findings are being presented for the first time, without the jargon and messy statistical analyses, but in plain language so it’s accessible to all readers – fans and curious observers alike!

Samantha Jeka

In this essay I will discuss the shift into the moe period which came in the mid-1990’s by first examining two anime franchises: Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (1997). Secondly, I will observe the psychological roots of moe in fantasy. Through examining these two anime, which come from the mecha (machine) genre, I will analyze the enormity of the moe shift and how it has altered and caters to the lives of its modern otaku audience.

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The goal of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies is to provide a space for academics, students, and independent researchers examining the field of anime, manga, cosplay, and fandom studies to access high-quality research about these topics and share their research with others.

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Academic collaboration jams-boree: jams, anime expo, and fan connections, inclusive media mix shaping communication through a silent voice, the horror of serenity the romantic sublime within psycho-pass, black butler: a neo-victorian jack the ripper and the child detective, understanding the backer motivations for japanese anime crowdfunding campaigns, society structures from anime-cyberpunk to postcyberpunk. city imagery in ghost in the shell and psycho-pass, defying fate, demanding futurity nostalgia, queerness, and family in ikuhara kunihiko’s mawaru penguindrum, the dynamism of anime images the case of the ‘kanada-style’ movement, newtypes, angels, and human instrumentality: the mecha genre and its apocalyptic bodies, book reviews, book review: manga: a critical guide, book review: the river imp and the stinky jewel and other tales: monster comics from edo japan.

The Journal of Anime and Manga Studies (JAMS) is an open-access journal dedicated to providing an ethical, peer-reviewed space for academics, students, and independent researchers examining the field of anime, manga, cosplay, and fandom studies to share their research with others. JAMS is peer reviewed by scholars with experience in these areas. The goal of JAMS is to explore anime as an art form and bring visibility to the deeper meanings, understandings, and/or cultural significance of anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms.

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anime addiction research paper

May 2021 College of the Sciences Presentations

From the TV to the Brain: Anime’s Effect on Emotion

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Aaron Duckworth , Central Washington University

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Emotions, anime, college students, diversity

Anime has become increasingly important to audiences around the world, including the college community. Despite observations that Millennials have aided in the rise of the adaptation of anime throughout the western world, little research has examined the impact of anime on psychological variables among college students. Anime editorials suggest that anime has a relatively unique impact because it is, …”one of the few forms of entertainment that openly deals with issues like depression, anxiety, psychosis, PTSD, and many other conditions. Unapologetically portraying it in a raw, gritty manner, not pulling any punches.” (LadyEveSidwich, 2016). The story-telling, along with the flexibility/creativity afforded by it’s animated nature both likely influence the ability of viewers to connect with, and be influenced by, anime. In our study (data collection ongoing), we examine the influence of anime on the emotions of college students who watch an animated episode of anime compared to those who watch a live-action version of the same clip. After completing a pre-test measure of emotion (PANAS), participants watched a short clip from an animated or live-action version of My Hero Academia; participants completed a post-test measure of their current affect (PANAS) and answered a series of questions about their connection to the characters/content, as well as their entertainment/anime viewing habits and demographic characteristics. We hypothesize that participants will feel more connected to the characters/content and exhibit greater changes in affect after viewing the animated (vs live-action) anime clip. Future research, limitations, and implications will be discussed.

Recommended Citation

Duckworth, Aaron, "From the TV to the Brain: Anime’s Effect on Emotion" (2021). Symposium Of University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE) . 82. https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source/2021/COTS/82

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anime addiction research paper

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Anime Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Coping Strategies

Girl dressed as an anime character.

Anime, a captivating form of Japanese animation, has taken the world by storm, enchanting audiences with its diverse genres, compelling characters, and imaginative storytelling. In recent years, the influence of anime has extended far beyond Japan’s borders, captivating students in the USA and around the globe. While anime can be a source of entertainment, inspiration, and cultural enrichment, there’s a growing concern about the phenomenon known as “anime addiction.” This article delves into the signs, symptoms, and coping strategies related to anime addiction, shedding light on a subject that affects students and enthusiasts alike. Let’s explore how the effects of anime can sometimes lead to challenges that require our attention and understanding.

Understanding Anime Addiction

To fully comprehend this addiction, it’s essential to grasp the broader concept of addiction. Addiction, in any form, is characterized by an uncontrollable and compulsive engagement with a particular activity or substance, often to the detriment of one’s well-being. In anime, this can manifest as a constant urge to consume more and more, to the point where it negatively impacts various aspects of life. Some individuals might neglect responsibilities, forgo social interactions, or even suffer from exhaustion due to excessive anime watching. That isn’t unique to anime; it mirrors the patterns seen in other forms of addiction, such as gaming or substance abuse.

Research conducted by organizations like Little Creek Recovery suggests that the compulsive nature of this addiction can have similar psychological effects on individuals as other addictive behaviors, making it a critical issue to address. Understanding the fundamentals of addiction helps us recognize when our love for anime may spiral into something more concerning.

Recognizing the Signs of Anime Addiction

As anime continues to gain popularity across the globe, it’s essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms that might indicate an unhealthy attachment to this form of entertainment. While enjoying anime in moderation is perfectly normal, excessive consumption can lead to many problems. Here, we’ll delve into the signs suggesting you or someone you know might grapple with this addiction. It’s worth noting that these signs can often mirror those seen in other types of addiction, underscoring the importance of awareness and intervention. Even Asian celebrities , despite their glamorous lives, are not immune to addiction issues, which underscores the universality of this problem.

Decreased Interest in Other Activities

One of the hallmark signs is a notable decline in interest in activities that were once enjoyed. It could be a red flag if you or someone you know suddenly lose enthusiasm for hobbies, sports, or other forms of entertainment in favor of binge-watching anime.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Anime addiction can lead to neglecting essential responsibilities. Missing work, skipping classes, or ignoring household chores due to a preoccupation with anime suggests that the hobby may have become problematic.

Physical Exhaustion

Staying up late into the night or sacrificing sleep to watch anime is a common symptom of addiction. That can result in chronic fatigue and negatively impact overall health.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Like substance addictions, individuals experiencing this addiction may exhibit withdrawal symptoms when unable to watch. Restlessness, irritability, or an overwhelming urge to watch more anime are warning signs.

Unhealthy Spending

Anime merchandise can be tempting, but overspending on collectibles, DVDs, or streaming subscriptions can indicate a problematic obsession even when facing financial strain.

Social Isolation

Isolation from friends and family in favor of anime can signal addiction. Consistently choosing to watch anime over social interactions can harm personal relationships and mental well-being.

The Underlying Causes

Understanding the underlying causes of this addiction is essential to address the issue effectively. Like any other addiction, it rarely occurs in isolation. It often has deep-rooted reasons that drive individuals to immerse themselves excessively in this form of entertainment. It’s worth noting that these causes may overlap and interact, making it crucial to identify them for effective intervention. Recognizing these causes can also serve as a preventive measure, helping individuals avoid anime addiction, similar to avoiding mobile phone addiction .

Escape Mechanism

For many individuals, anime serves as an escape from the challenges and stresses of the real world. The rich and immersive worlds depicted in anime can provide solace and comfort, especially during difficult times. When anime becomes the primary escape route, it can lead to addiction.

Peer Influence

The influence of friends and online communities can be a significant factor in developing an addiction. When a person’s social circle encourages excessive anime consumption or binge-watching, it can reinforce addictive behavior.

Personal Resonance

Sometimes, individuals find deep emotional connections with anime characters and storylines. This resonance can lead to an intense attachment, making it challenging to detach from the anime world.

Avoiding Mobile Phone Addiction

As individuals seek ways to avoid mobile phone addiction by setting usage limits and adopting healthier tech habits, similar strategies can be applied to anime consumption. Recognizing when anime serves as an escape from mobile phone addiction or other problems can be the first step toward healthier consumption.

Understanding these underlying causes can help individuals and their loved ones identify and address the addiction’s root. By addressing these causes, we can work towards a balanced and healthier relationship with anime.

Addressing the Symptoms

Now that we’ve explored the signs and underlying causes of anime addiction let’s focus on how to address these symptoms effectively. Recognizing the presence of addiction is only the first step; taking action to mitigate its effects and regain control is crucial. Here are some practical strategies for addressing the symptoms:

Admitting the Issue

The first and most important step is acknowledging the problem. Denial can be a significant barrier to recovery, so accepting that anime consumption has become problematic is essential.

Seeking External Opinions

Consult with friends, family, or a therapist to gain an outside perspective on your behavior. Others may notice changes you haven’t, helping you gauge the severity of the issue.

Setting Limits

Establish specific limits on how much time you’ll watch anime daily or weekly. Stick to these boundaries to regain control over your consumption.

Taking Regular Breaks

It’s essential to pause between episodes or series to prevent continuous binge-watching. Use these breaks to engage in other activities or interact with people.

Avoiding Binge-Watching

Try watching episodes over several days instead of consuming the entire series in one sitting. That spreads out the enjoyment and reduces the risk of addiction.

Coping Strategies for Anime Addiction

Having explored the signs, causes, and ways to address this addiction, let’s delve into practical coping strategies. These strategies can help individuals regain control of their anime consumption and strike a healthier balance:

Scheduled Viewing

Set specific days and times for watching anime. This structured approach can prevent impulsive binge-watching and promote moderation.

Diversifying Interests

Engage in other hobbies and activities that pique your interest. Diversifying your interests reduces the time available for excessive anime watching.

Social Watching

Turn anime consumption into a social activity by watching with friends or joining online communities. Sharing the experience can make it more enjoyable and limit isolation.

Professional Help

When addiction becomes overwhelming, consider seeking support from therapists or support groups. They can provide guidance and coping strategies tailored to your specific situation.

In the ever-expanding world of anime, it’s essential to recognize the fine line between healthy enjoyment and addiction. As the popularity of this captivating medium continues to rise, understanding the signs, addressing the underlying causes, and adopting coping strategies are crucial steps toward a balanced and fulfilling life. Anime addiction is a real concern, but it can be managed effectively with awareness and proactive measures.

So, whether you’re a seasoned otaku or a newcomer to anime, remember that responsibly enjoying your favorite series is key to preserving your overall well-being. By staying mindful of the signs and seeking support when needed, you can continue to embrace the enchanting stories, characters, and worlds that anime offers, all while living a well-rounded life.

Meta: Discover the signs, causes, and coping strategies for anime addiction. Enjoy your favorite anime while maintaining a balanced life.

anime addiction research paper

A. Anti-Fans

According to Christopher NG, they are probably the weirdest product of Korean pop but anti-fans are the exact opposite of fans. The only goal of an anti-fan is to hate a specific group. They do this by trying to dig up all kinds of information about the past of the idol singer in hopes of creating a scandal and making the idols life miserable. They’ve also been known to start rumors that have become full blown scandals. Anti-fans are usually created out of jealousy. When their favorite idol starts dating or is even just rumored to be dating another idol, they automatically become anti-fans of that other idol. Some have even gone so far as to try and physically assault the Korean pop idols they hate (“The K-Pop Fandom Family Tree” 11).

According to Christopher NG, Korean pop babies are those who are relatively new to the Korean pop scene and usually focus on just one group, their fandom. This is the most critical time for a Korean pop fan because it can make or break interest in Korean pop as a whole. If a Korean pop baby is unable to find enough material such as music videos, variety show guestings and interviews of their favorite idols, chances are their liking of Korean pop will not take root and it will be very short lived (“The K-Pop Fandom Family Tree” 10).

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How to Get Over an Anime Addiction

Last Updated: November 7, 2023

This article was co-authored by Wes Pinkston . Wes Pinkston is a Certified Holistic Life Coach and the Founder of Wes Pinkston Life Coaching. With more than five years of experience, he specializes in helping people achieve greater fulfillment and understand their full potential. He received his Holistic Lifestyle Coach Certification from The CHEK Institute. This article has been viewed 931,996 times.

Do you find yourself so addicted to anime that your entire life begins to revolve around it? You spend all your allowances on DVDs, manga, action figures, and conventions. You might even have started falling behind in your classes and abandoned your social life in order to keep up with all of your favorite series. You know that you have to get over it, but you don't know where to begin. This article will offer you some great tips and advice that may help you overcome this addiction.

Recognizing the Addiction

Step 1 Determine how much you rely on anime to be happy.

  • Do you feel more attached/attracted to anime characters than real people? There is nothing wrong with having a favorite character. It is only when you become so attached to a fictional character that you would reject all relationships with real people that it becomes unhealthy. If you find yourself buying a body pillow or crying for the whole day about their death, then this includes you. A fictional character cannot give you the same love and attention that a real person might.
  • Have you ever gotten into a serious fight over an anime? It is perfectly fine to disagree with someone or to discuss theories, so long as it is done in a mature fashion. However, if you find yourself so attached to an anime that you become protective of it and lash out at anyone who dislikes it and insulting them, going on ranting, you might be unhealthily-obsessed with it. Such behavior might even cost you friendships.

Step 3 Know if anime affects your social behavior.

  • If most of the items you buy come from the "Anime" category, you may be addicted.
  • If you find that you have to skip buying food, clothing, and other necessities in order to afford anime merchandise, you most likely are addicted.

Step 5 Figure out how much time you spend on anime.

  • Do you find yourself turning down your friends in order to watch anime? Being introverted is not a bad thing, but ignoring your friends for the sake of watching anime may cost you valuable friendships. If you find that you are choosing to watch anime instead of spending time with your friends, you may be becoming addicted to anime. [2] X Research source
  • Do you spend every free minute on anime so that you sacrifice sleep, health, and hygiene? If you spend so much time watching anime that you no longer bathe regularly or eat healthy (that box of Pocky seems so much easier to grab than cutting up an apple to eat), you may start to feel sluggish and tired, and you may find yourself getting sick more and more often.
  • Does anime affect your school or work performance? Once you get home, do you start working on your homework or paperwork, or do you start catching up on your favorite anime show instead? Do you even go to school or have a job? Keeping your grades up is important; some colleges and jobs require a certain GPA. And it’s important to stay on top of work so you don’t find yourself fired.
  • Do you abandon other hobbies in favor of anime? Did you use to enjoy soccer or playing the piano, but avoided continuing your lessons in order to watch a few episodes? If so, you may be addicted to anime.

Distancing Yourself from Anime

Step 1 Try to limit your time watching anime.

  • If you're unable to stop watching when the timer or reminder goes off, that's a sign that you should stop watching anime completely.
  • If you find yourself watching several episodes a week, or even a night, try to limit yourself to just one episode a night, or a few episodes a week.

Step 2 Try to limit how many shows you watch.

  • Don't watch anime until you've gotten all your homework done—but also don't watch anime past your bedtime. This will encourage you to not only get your work done faster but also to not procrastinate on it. If you don't get your nightly dose of anime in, do not despair—there is always the next night.
  • Save anime for the weekend. Your excitement and anticipation will build throughout the week—but you will also be able to get a ton of other things done during that week.
  • Do all of your chores first. Tell yourself that you won't watch the latest episode of your favorite show until you've done your chores (be it cleaning your room, folding the laundry, doing the dishes, etc). You'll get all your work done faster—and at the end of it, you'll get a nice reward.

Step 5 Cut back on the merchandise.

  • Do I really need it? A new bag with your favorite character may come in handy if you are shopping for school supplies, but you may not necessarily need that new Funko Pop figurine. If you are tight on money, try to buy stuff that you really need.
  • Do I like it? Instead of buying something just because it comes from your favorite anime, try to pass on it and save up for something that you really, really like instead.
  • What will I do with it? Some items, such as mugs, watches, bags, and shirts are useful. Other items, such as figurines, patches, or pins serve only decorative purposes. You can manage your addiction by buying stuff that you will actually use (as opposed to just look at).

Step 6 Try staying away from fansites and deleting them from your favorites.

  • Go outside right now and look for something you think is beautiful. Is there a tree with a bark pattern that looks like an apple background? Are there a few nice rocks that you find yourself picking up? Just look outside and find something you think is absolutely amazing. It probably won’t take as long as you think it might. Then, take a moment to reflect on how nice it feels to be in the fresh air, looking at the beauty that reality has to offer.

Step 8 Consider cutting down on your collection.

  • If watching anime online is too tempting and distracting you from your school work, consider either deleting the video files from your computer, or deleting the websites from your browser's favorites.

Step 9 Keep an eye on your behavior.

Distracting Yourself with Other Things

Step 1 Consider finding another...

  • Martial arts. If you are into anime and Japanese culture, you may be interested in martial arts, especially a Japanese one, such as Aikido or Judo.
  • Playing a musical instrument such as the guitar or piano.
  • Jogging, hiking, and biking can not only keep you fit and healthy, but they can also help you relax and enjoy the natural world around you. Take a trip to the gym might be nice. [4] X Research source
  • Knitting and crochet will keep your hands moving and busy; you won't have time to think about Anime.
  • Photography will help you get out more, meet new people, and help you see the world you’ve been missing out on. Go outside and see it.

Step 2 Find another fandom to take part in.

  • If you like to roleplay, then consider branching out to other, non-anime related fandoms, such as ones based on books and movies.

Step 3 Spend some time with your friends.

  • If you do not have any friends, try to find some new ones by joining a club at your school, going to a bookstore or library, or even hanging out at a park.

Step 4 Ask your friends and family to support you.

Expert Q&A

  • If you have another friend who is also addicted to anime, consider trying to fight the addiction together. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • If you need more incentive to stop using Japanese words, keep in mind that you may actually be offending people (particularly people who are Japanese) by using these words without knowing their meaning. This is called cultural appropriation and it is widely looked down upon. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • "Kawaii" and "Senpai" are especially overused and can annoy many people around you if used frequently. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

Tips from our Readers

  • Limit yourself to a certain director/studio if you’re trying to cut down on the range of anime you’re watching. Some good studios are Madhouse, Sunrise, and Ghibli.
  • If you choose another fandom you could get addicted to it as well, so I suggest you look for a wider variety of things to do, like non media hobbies.
  • There is nothing wrong with liking anime or buying the merchandise, as long as you have your priorities straight and can be happy without it.
  • Ask friends for recommendations for fandoms that aren't anime (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Keepers of the School, etc).

anime addiction research paper

You Might Also Like

Deal With Porn Addiction

  • ↑ Indiana University, What are Addictive Behaviors?
  • ↑ Psychology Today, 6 Signs that You're Addicted to Something
  • ↑ Addictions, Internet

About This Article

Wes Pinkston

To get over an anime addiction, start by reducing the amount of time you spend watching it every day. Limit yourself to watching only 2 or 3 of your favorite shows, and avoid or delete anime fan sites from your browser favorites to prevent temptation. When you feel ready, try to take a break from watching any anime for a certain period of time and see how you feel. Exploring other hobbies can help you get your mind off of anime! For tips on reducing your anime collection, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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79 Anime Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best anime topic ideas & essay examples, 💡 good essay topics on anime, 📌 simple & easy anime essay titles, ❓ research questions about anime.

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  • v.8(9); 2022 Sep

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Does anime, idol culture bring depression? Structural analysis and deep learning on subcultural identity and various psychological outcomes

Yinghao liu.

a Faculty of Arts and Letters, Department of Behavioral Science, Tohoku University, Japan

b Department of Aging Research and Geriatric Medicine Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, Tohoku University, Japan

c Graduate School of Information Sciences, Tohoku University, Japan

Associated Data

Data included in article/supp. material/referenced in article.

Subculture, includes animation, comics, games (ACG), and idol fan culture, is popular among young generations in Japan. Previous studies have shown different psychological outcomes within different subcultural groups; however, underlying mechanisms remain unclear. This study proposes that subcultural identity may play a crucial role in mental health outcomes by interweaving social support and reputation. We examined the interplay between subcultural identity, social support, reputation, and different psychological outcomes through structural equation modeling (N = 300). Furthermore, we trained neural networks (NN) by applying a deep learning algorithm to predict psychological outcomes of different subcultures. The results suggest identity related to anime, idol, and hip-hop was positively associated with anxiety, aggression, depressive symptoms, and suicidal tendencies. By contrast, fashion and sports identities associated with no adverse or positive psychological outcomes. Perceived reputation mediates adverse psychological outcomes in the ACG, idol, and hip-hop groups. The highest accuracy in our NN reached 71%, indicating that NN could be an effective tool for predicting mental problems. Our work points up an urgent need to improve the mental health of the young generation by de-stigmatizing discriminated cultural groups.

  • • Identity related to anime, idol, and hip-hop was positively associated with adverse psychological outcomes.
  • • Identity related to fashion and sports had no association with positive or adverse psychological outcomes.
  • • Perceived reputation mediates adverse psychological outcomes.
  • • Neural network can predict psychological problems based on cultural preference.

Subculture; Social support; Reputation; Psychological outcomes; Neural networks.

1. Introduction

Subcultural, in opposition to dominant culture, such as animation, comics, and games (ACG), and fan culture, is prevalent among young adults in Japan ( Chandler-Olcott and Mahar, 2003 ). Researchers have discovered the importance of subculture-related activities in producing common identification and providing social support, thereby generating a significant impact on attitudes and behaviors ( Horowitz and Vigil, 1990 ; Shildrick and MacDonald, 2006 ). Also, subcultural elements help to build group identity and reputation for youths in Japan ( Ishii, 2014 ). Effective support from cultural activities (i.e., singing, playing an instrument, or painting) decreases anxiety and other adverse psychological outcomes ( Cuypers et al., 2012 ). Similarly, subcultural enthusiasm generates various clinical symptoms; for example, goths were discovered to have a tendency toward depression and self-harm ( Bowes et al., 2015 ). By contrast, sports encourage better health situations ( Wann and Stephanie, 2005 ).

Subcultures may have a unique mechanism of mental health outcomes by intervolving social support and reputation. Therefore, this study clarifies the interplay between various subcultures, social support, reputation and psychological outcomes, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, hostility, aggression, suicidal ideation, and empathy concerns. Our theoretical model is presented in Figure 1 .

Figure 1

Theoretical model.

1.1. Subculture identity and various psychological outcomes

Subcultural identity is based on the identification of specific ethics, music, dress codes, and other cultural elements ( Shildrick and MacDonald, 2006 ). Our research focused on the influence of youth subcultural identity on psychological outcomes. Specifically, identities related to anime, idol fandom, hip-hop, fashion, and sports are taken into consideration.

The reason we choose anime, idol culture is that although they comprise large proportion of youth entertainment in Japan, they commonly relate to stigmas such as “Dasai” or “Otaku” (Dasai refers to an out-of-fashion, unattractive appearance; Otaku describes people who are homebodies) and induce school-related problems like non-attendance, or isolation ( Leshner et al., 2018 ). Hip-hop, however, is a newly-controversial topic, with some endorsing its rebellious spirit while others relate it to youth delinquency ( Crooke et al., 2020 ; Robinson et al., 2018 ; Ter Bogt et al., 2013 ). By contrast, sporty and fashionable characters are endorsed among youth ( Ishii, 2014 ).

More importantly, empirical studies have highlighted different subcultures result in different psychological outcomes. Bowes et al. (2015) found that goth identity followed the risk of depression and self-harm. Anime or idol fans perceive serious discrimination, which could induce depressive symptom ( Leshner et al., 2018 , 2020 ). In contrast, sports fan identity is associated with better psychological wellbeing ( Wann and Stephanie, 2005 ). Belonging to each subculture group may underpin one’s social fame and network in a common or specific way, suggesting the linkage involving subcultural identity and ultimate psychological status, especially among the young generation.

1.2. Subculture identity and social support

Common identity provides the basis for exchanging social support ( McNamara et al., 2021 ; Shildrick and MacDonald, 2006 ). Study shows that, a person’s willingness to help a stranger in distress is enhanced when the stranger is perceived to share a relevant social identity with the helper ( Levine et al., 2005 ). For usually-adverse subculture groups, easily exposed to injustice, the perception of sharing common identity with another forms the basis for exchanging resource and emotional support to tackle daily difficulties ( Haslam et al., 2005 ).

According to Cobb’s (1976) definition, social support refers to being cared for, respected, and valued. Research on sports fans shows that the common identity and fan relationship is highly valued, which builds strong social support within the group ( Wann and Stephanie, 2005 ). However, the anime or idol fan group, which possesses a lower self and group evaluation ( Leshner et al., 2018 ), could result in ineffective social support.

1.3. The reputation of subculture groups

According to socioanalytic theory, social identity and reputation are crucial interrelated components to define one’s personality ( Gottlieb et al., 2021 ; Hogan, 1983 ). Identity denotes how actors see themselves, which is personal narrative, while reputation denotes how an actor believes that others will perceive them, which established by social observation. Reputation and self-identification accounts for the individual differences in personality, attitudes, competent performance and mental status ( Gottlieb and Gøtzsche-Astrup, 2020 ; Wihler et al., 2017 ). Among youths, subcultural identity may influence their percept on reputation, which is reflected as psychological differences.

Studies on online Ana groups have revealed that rebuilding reputation is the central activity within group. The Ana group is an online community that encourages young people to obtain super-slim bodies through fasting or vomiting and affirms anorexia and bulimia as legitimate lifestyles. As this unhealthy lifestyle will not receive positive recognition and support from outside society, within such groups, members tend to justify their lifestyle by stating, ‘Starvation is the most fun a girl can have’ ( Crowe and Hoskins, 2019 ; Gailey, 2009 ).

Also, a Japanese high school study showed that reputation is important among peers. Among high school peers, groups are divided and ranked according to subcultural elements ( Ishii, 2014 ). Groups possessing characteristics such as sporty and fashionable enjoy a higher reputation. However, students with less attractive appearances, or enthusiasm for anime face stigma. Studies note that perceived reputation is a robust predictor of mental health problems ( Foster et al., 2021 ). Similarly, we speculate that youth in lower-reputation groups are linked to various adverse psychological outcomes.

1.4. Hypothesis

Subcultural identity, social support, and reputation are related to loneliness, depression, and anxiety ( Bowes et al., 2015 ; Leicht-Deobald et al., 2018 ). However, previous research has concentrated on individual relationships rather than on combining these factors. To understand the mechanism by which subcultural identity, social support, and reputation jointly contribute to youth psychological outcomes, we proposed that:

Different subcultural identities are associated with various psychological outcomes.

Different subculture identities are associated with various psychological outcomes, and they are mediated by social support.

Different subcultural identities are associated with various psychological outcomes, and they are mediated by reputation.

2.1. Sample size and subjects

Depressive symptoms measured by the Beck Depression Inventory were considered as the main outcome and typically have a moderate effect (f 2 = 0.15) ( Seggar et al., 2002 ). Using G-power with an error probability of α = 0.05 and 0.8 power, we calculated the lowest sample size of 90 to detect a moderate difference. To better control the response quality, we finally enrolled 300 Japanese participants. The target subjects were young adults (average age: 21.3; standard deviation: 4.3 years) without psychological disease. The participants were informed of the study’s purpose and provided informed consent. The research was approved by the ethics committee of Tohoku University and compiled between September to December 2021.

2.2. Measurements

2.2.1. subculture identity.

The five categories of subculture “ACG,” “idol,” “sports,” “fashion,” and “hip-hop” were included. The social identification measure of Doosje et al. (1995) was adjusted to check for subcultural identity. Participants have to rate on a scale from 1 = ‘not at all’ to 7 = ‘extremely’ to questions ‘ I see myself as a member of the ACG (anime, comic, game)/sports/idol/fashion/hip-hop group’. Participants were allowed to choose a rating identity score under each subculture group.

2.2.2. Social support

Social support was measured using the Japanese version of the Duke Social Support Index (DSSI-J) ( Zimet et al., 1988 ), with high reliability and validity (Cronbach's α = 0.868, GFI = 0.916). Twenty-five items were measured on a 5-point Likert scale, with higher scores indicating higher support. Specifically, nine items were used to define emotional support (i.e., Do you listen to by family and friends, can you talk about your deepest problem?); six items were used to define instrumental support (i.e., Do family or friends ever help you shop or run errands for you?) and seven items were used to define perceived support (i.e., Do family and friends ever help you out with money?).

2.2.3. Reputation

To simplify the measurement of reputation, we used two items to assess perceived group and personal reputation brought with subculture identity (“My group is reputable”) and personal (“I feel reputable because I belong to this group”). Responses were made on a 7-point Likert-type scale, from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree. A higher value suggests a better reputation.

2.2.4. Outcome measurement

Depressive symptoms were evaluated using the Japanese version of the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) ( Kojima et al., 2002 ) with 21 items. The score ranges from 0 to 63, with higher scores indicating more depressive symptoms.

Anxiety was measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) with 40 items. Of the 40 items, 20 items measure the recent anxiety state, and 20 items measure anxiety in one’s personality. Both range from 20 to 80, with a higher summed score indicating a higher anxiety status ( Iwata and Mishima, 2016 ).

Aggression was measured using the State-Trait Anger Inventory subscales. The state and personal traits of anger were included. In both domains, scores ranged from 10 to 40, with higher summed scores indicating a more aggressive status ( Shimoda and Terasaka, 2012 ).

Suicidal ideation was measured using the Japanese short version of the suicidal ideation scale with six items; the total range is from 0 to 12, with higher scores indicating higher suicidal trends ( Sato et al., 2014 ).

Empathy was measured using the Japanese version of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index with 28 items that were divided into four subscales: fantasy (FS), personal taking (PT), empathetic concern (EC), and personal distress (PD). The range is from 7 to 35 for each group of sub-items; the higher the sum score, the better the individual’s empathetic ability ( Xiao and Toyama, 2020 ).

2.3. Statistical analysis

We aimed to detect multiple associations within different subculture groups across metrics, including social support, reputation, and various psychological outcomes using a two-step approach.

First, we applied the structural equation model (SEM) to test whether subcultural identity, social support, and psychological outcomes were synergistically associated. The maximum likelihood (ML) was used for estimation and testing in SEM. In this method, parameter estimates are obtained by maximizing the likelihood function derived from the multivariate normal distribution. Identity under each subculture group, social support and reputation were inputted as original value. Psychological measurements were inputted with standardized z-score due to large range differences.

As our hypothesis focuses on the difference between subcultural groups, we set ACG, idol, and hip-hop in one group to build one latent subcultural identity and fashion and sports in another. The reason for this separation is that Anime and Idol's culture have consistently suggested unfavorable social fame and were responsible for school-related problems like non-attendance or isolation ( Leshner et al., 2018 ). Recent studies also pointed out that Hip-hop, a newly controversial topic, has related to youth delinquency, violence and health behaviors such as tobacco use ( Ter Bogt et al., 2013 ; Crooke et al., 2020 ; Robinson et al., 2018 ). To this end, we combined Anime, Idol, and Hip-pop as ‘unfavorable’ subculture groups. Whereas Sports and Fashion usually have a favorable trend toward social reputation and physical-mental status among the youth. Therefore, we consider Sports and Fashion have different latent characteristics compared to the ‘unfavorable’ (Anime, idol and hip-hop) group. For the psychological outcomes, we categorized depression, aggression, and anxiety into adverse psychological outcome group, depression and suicide into the severe adverse psychological outcome group, and empathy into positive psychological outcome group. The reason for this arrangement is that depression, aggression, and anxiety frequently occur together clinically and are fundamentally adverse psychological symptoms, which can also be seen from our association matrix (Appendix A). Additionally, depression is the leading cause of suicide ( Im et al. 2017 ), and suicide tendency as the severe phenotype of depressive symptoms ( Dong et al., 2018 ). Whereas positive psychological outcomes should be measured separately for empathy. In total, we built 2 × 3 = 6 models. We ruined SEM under STATA 16 (StataCorp LP, College Station, TX, USA). The results include the path coefficient with the level of significance and goodness of fit of the model.

Second, to verify the associations between subcultural identity and psychological outcomes, we built neural network (NN) based on a deep-learning algorithm. The NN metrics can be quantified using numerical values. Once the network is trained to fit the values, we can reveal the potential associations within the metrics by modifying specific inputs of the network and observing the corresponding outputs.

The NN we built were composed of several dense layers as shown in Figure 2 . Frist, NN with one hidden layer of 16/32/64 units were constructed. And then NN with two hidden layers of 32 units in each layer were tested. In the end, NN with three hidden layers, with 32 units in each layer were applied. We changed the number of layers and units to observe the influence of the network width and depth on prediction accuracy. The inputs were five subcultural identities: ACG, idol, sport, fashion, and hip-hop. ReLu was used as the activation function for the hidden layers as it is less computationally expensive and often generate good performance ( Agarap, 2018 ). The output was fed to linear activation for psychological outcomes: depressive symptoms, aggression, anxiety, suicidal tendency, and empathy.

Figure 2

Network structure.

Table 1 presents the basic information on the sample. The variables' correlation matrix is presented in Appendix A. It shows that most of our variables interact with each other, among which the associations of five subcultural identities are also significant, indicating that the subculture identity we measured collapsed, so it was necessary to proceed with the structure equation model.

Table 1

Demographic character.

N 300; 150 female 150 males; Single 291 Married 9; student 170; informal employment 32; formal employment 48; civil servant 7; self-employed 4; freelancer 5; housewife 9; no job 15; medical service 4; others 6.

3.1. Results of the structural equation models

Figure 3 presents standardized results of structural models (1) (2) (3). In the first SEM model, a higher level of latent subculture identity was associated with adverse psychological symptoms directly (β direct = .22, p < 0.01). Second, direct effect of subcultural identity on reputation is seen (β direct = .48, p < 0.001), so well as reputation’s direct effect on adverse psychological outcomes (β direct = -.26, p < 0.01). Therefore, mediation effect of reputation on the association between subculture identity and adverse psychological outcomes is significant (β indirect = -.21, p < 0.01). Similarly, in structural model (2), latent subculture identity was directly associated with psychological outcomes constructed by indicators of depressive symptom and suicidal tendency (β direct = .33, p < 0.001), and the association is stronger than model (1). This might be due to the relation of depression and suicidal tendency (β = .618, p < 0.05 in Appendix A) is stronger than connection between depression and aggression or anxiety (β = .515, p < 0.05 and β = .566, p  < 0.05 in Appendix A). Aso, mediation effect of reputation on the association between subculture identity and adverse psychological outcomes is significant (β indirect = −.23, p < 0.01). In model (3), direct association between subcultural identity and empathy is not significant (β direct = −.15, p > 0.05) but still, mediation effect of reputation exists in this line (β indirect = .68, p < 0.01). The first three models indicated reputation’s significant role in youth psychological outcomes, that higher reputation youth identified with ACG, idol, hip-hop culture perceived, the less likely they could develop depressive symptom, suicidal tendency, aggression, anxiety status but more likely to be empathetic towards others. On the other hand, as subculture identity was not significantly associated with social support (β direct = −.084, p > 0.05, β direct = −.084, p > 0.05, β direct = −.077, p > 0.05 respectively), the mediation effect is not valid.

Figure 3

Standardized results of structural model (1) (2) (3), ∗p < 0.05 ∗∗p < 0.01 ∗∗∗p < 0.001.

Figure 4 presents standardized results of structural models (4) (5) (6), where identification with sports and fashion were used to construct latent subcultural identity. Frist, no direct association with psychological symptom was observed. Compared with first three models, the coefficient value of subcultural identity and reputation were higher (β direct = .82, p < 0.001, β direct = .81, p < 0.001 and β direct = .82, p < 0.001 for model (4) (5) (6)). However, direct effect of reputation on psychological symptoms was not significant (β direct = −.36, p > 0.05, β direct = −.42, p > 0.05 and β direct = .42, p > 0.05 in model (4) (5) (6)). This indicating although youth identified with sports or fashion culture enjoyed higher reputation, it had not affected depression, aggression, anxiety, suicidal tendency, or empathy. It might because youth attracted to sports and fashion already possessed better mental status, therefore, reputation from outside does not matter so much for their inner mental situations. As reputation’s direct effect on psychological outcomes was not significant in this group, the mediation effect of reputation was not eminent. Also, subculture identity was not significantly associated with social support (β direc t = .13, p > 0.05, β direct = .13, p > 0.05, β direct = .12, p > 0.05 respectively), the mediation effect is not valid.

Figure 4

Standardized results of structural model (4) (5) (6), ∗p < 0.05 ∗∗p < 0.01 ∗∗∗p < 0.001.

3.2. Goodness of fit

Table 2 presents goodness of fit of the six structural models we built. The CFI, denoted comparative index, TLI, denoted Tucker-Lewis index, the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA), Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR) index and χ 2 were usually used to measure the performance of the structural equation model. Values of CFI above .95, TLI above .90, RMSEA and SRMR less than .08 indicating SEM is acceptable ( Hu and Bentler, 1999 ). A significant χ 2 value means that we can reject a poor fit. However, researchers have pointed out that it is sensitive to sample size; the larger the sample, the greater the chance of obtaining a significant level. Therefore, some scholars recommend using the division of (χ 2 /df) as a measure of good fit, with values of 5 or less being a common benchmark ( Schumacker and Lomax, 2004 ). Following these criteria, we built six structural equation models that are acceptable. The R square shows that above 70% of the variance is explained by our arrangements.

Table 2

Goodness of fit summary.

CFI = Comparative fit index; TLI = Tucker-Lewis index.

4. Deep learning result of subculture identity and psychological outcomes

As shown in Table 3 , we built NN with various structure. First, NN with 1 layer and 16/32/64 units applied five categories of subcultural identity as input and depressive symptom, suicidal tendency, empathetic value, anxiety, aggression as outputs together; and then we extend the depth of NN to 2 layers and 3 layers, within which each layer contains 32 units. To improve the NN stability and accuracy, NN structure with more complexity, 2 layers with 32 units in each layer was trained focusing on single psychological symptom. Each NN model was trained for 1000 epochs.

Table 3

Performance of NNs.

A total of 300 samples was collected, where 80% (n = 240) samples were randomly chosen as the training dataset to build the NN model, and 20% (n = 60) were used for validation. The ratio of training/testing set was decided arbitrarily as the total amount of data is relatively small. K-fold cross validation method was applied (K = 5 corresponding the ratio of training/testing) to randomly and averagely separated the data into five sets.

All of the data were normalized to the range between zero and one before being input into the network to remove the influence from different value ranges. The outputs were rescaled to the original range. Prediction’s accuracy and Mean Squared Error (MSE) were used to report performance of NN in Table 3 . Prediction’s accuracy was calculated as:

n t r u e refers to the number of predictions that match our data and n t o t a l is the total number of predictions.

Panel A in Table 3 presents the accuracy of the NNs using all psychological outcomes as outputs together. The difference between training and testing prediction accuracy suggested that our NN suffered from underfitting problems. Such variation was predictable to some extent as the amount of output variables outnumbered input variable. Also, sparse units or simple layers of NN structure cannot extract sufficient features from inputs for prediction. However, this does not mean that more units are good for prediction, because they may cause overfitting problems ( Schmidhuber, 2015 ). Panel B reports the accuracy of NNs using each psychological outcomes separately as outcome. Except NN for depressive symptom, there is a rise in accuracy compared with NN integrated all psychological indicators together as outputs. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that due to the limited scale of collected dataset, one inputs character and asymmetrical amount of output characters, other than the lack of variable association, the initial NNs did not perform well. The highest accuracy was obtained in the NN test for anxiety (71.6% for the training set, 56.6% for validation). The increase in accuracy indicated that a more delicate NN could serve well to predict specific psychological symptom.

Finally, we present the prediction of psychological outcomes in the NN with two layer, 32-32 units because it provides more accuracy. For simplicity, we activated only one specific subcultural identity input and observed the output results. Table 4 presents the results. Overall, the prediction from NN is in line with our statistical findings that ACG, idol, and hip-hop identity could result in higher depression and suicidal tendencies than sports and fashion identity. What is interesting here is that ACG identity was predicted to have the highest empathy value. This may relate to the rich imagination contained in anime and manga, and imaging other situations may be a first step to empathy.

Table 4

Results in 32-32 NN.

5. Discussion

This study examined the integration of subcultural identity, social support, reputation, and various psychological outcomes. In the analysis of structural equational modeling, ACG, idol, and hip-hop identity were related to adverse psychological outcomes, whereas fashion and sports identity were not. Similarly, the neural networks we built predicting relatively severe psychological outcomes followed with ACG, idol and hip-hop identity. The negative association between ACG, idol, hip-hop identity and adverse psychological symptoms can be mediated by reputation.

Specifically, ACG, idol, and hip-hop identity were negatively and significantly related to depressive symptom, suicidal tendency, anxiety status, and aggression, indicating youth who identified with above mentioned subculture elements were related with adverse mental problems. Such relation is not true for fashion and sports identities. Thus, H1 ‘Different subcultural identities are associated with various psychological outcomes’ was proved. Second, all measured subcultural identities were weakly related to social support, indicating that H2 is invalid, that social support could not mediate the association between subculture identity and psychological outcomes. Third, for ACG, idol and hip-hop group, reputation had a significant mediating effect on both adverse psychological outcomes and empathy. Conversely, the mediation effect for sports and fashion groups was not significant. Therefore, H3 ‘Different subcultural identities are associated with various psychological outcomes, and they are mediated by reputation’ was true for ACG, idol and hip-hop group.

Our findings accord with previous findings that different subcultures follow various psychological outcomes ( Bowes et al., 2015 ; Levine et al., 2005 ). The difference may relate to the subculture’s interpretation frame. For example, in the Ana group, vomiting and starvation were seen as justifiable acts ( Gailey, 2009 ). Similarly, it is usual to see bitter and hopeless characters in various anime; young adults may be influenced by the attitude anime transfer and develop mental health problems. Regarding empathy, we found no significant association with any subculture. Our results suggest that subcultural enthusiasm may be a predictor for mental health problems, but not empathy.

The reason of positive relation between reputation and subcultural identity may stem from Japanese collectivism; one’s community belongingness is usually highly appreciated. These findings may be differentiated from previous studies that teenage enthusiasm for anime or idol fans is discriminated against in school ( Leshner et al., 2018 ). Further, reputation in the ACG, idol, and hip-hop groups could mediate adverse psychological outcomes, but not in the sports and fashion groups. Previous studies showed positive reputation linked with psychological well-being ( Foster et al., 2021 ); our study goes further. We found that the effect of reputation may matter more for youth identified with stigmatized groups. Therefore, future de-stigmatization work for disadvantaged groups is urgently needed.

As for the results of NN, the highest predictive accuracy of 71% was seen in NN with 2 layers, 32-32 structure to predict anxiety. Although the NN models with 1 layer we originally built present underfitting problem, after extending the depths and width of the network structure, the rise of predicting accuracy were observed. The rise of predictive accuracy indicating that NN with more delicate structure could predict individual psychological status based on cultural preferences. NN shows that Artificial Intelligence could serve as a robust tool to manage public health problems as a simple and inexpensive way to detect cultural differentiation or various diseases.

This study also has various limitations. First, we recruited participants from an online research company in Japan, which could result in selection bias that are not representative for a general population. Second, only one item was used to measure subcultural identity, which may weaken the relationships between subcultural identity and psychological measurements, making results less reliably. Third, the five subcultural identities have largely collapsed, and we cannot separate the different effects associated with different subculture crystal clear. Further study needs to adopt a more inclusive measurement on evaluating identity in each of subculture group independently. Fourth, this study doesn’t contain causal examination, therefore it could be possible that youth who already developed psychological problems are easier to be attracted by anime, idol and hip-hop culture to ease their original metal suffers. Fifth, the difference of mediating effect of reputation might be predictable corresponding to the reputation variance followed with subcultural elements, that anime or idol fandom usually comes with stigma but being sporty and fashionable could bring popularity to youth ( Leshner et al., 2018 ; Ishii, 2014 ). Sixth, our outcome measurements were restricted to psychological symptoms, but physical or behavioral outcomes relate with subculture were not considered. Therefore, outcomes such as eating disorders or delinquency might be associated with fashion or hip-hop subgroups and should be studied in future research. Finally, the predictive accuracy of NN was not as expectation, which ascribe to limited amount of data and asymmetric number of input and output variables, therefore the improvement of NN structure and more representative data focusing on subculture preference is expected.

Subculture, such as animation, K-pop idol fandom, rock music, does not only influence on youth perspectives towards life ( Ramasubramanian and Kornfield, 2012 ; Rustad et al., 2003 ), but also socialization process and tangible lifestyle, such as consumption of idol related commercial item, participation in the community of fandom ( Siriyuvasak and Hyunjoon, 2007 ). As attitude, social activity are the crucial facilitators of mental health problem, subcultures importance on public health management is evident. Our study contributes to this line of concerns, we proved that identification towards subculture associated with psychological symptoms and such association is predictable by deep learning neural networks. As teenagers are the population with most sensitive personality, it’s better to measure and enhance their mental health status indirectly than interfere directly. Deep learning on cultural preferences may provide a new solution to do that: without diagnosing clinical symptom but focusing on cultural enthusiasm of the patients to predict their potential mental health status, through which decrease the feeling of shame and avoid stigma related with disease. In the end, we call for future research at a more representative level for subcultural group and discuss its causal relation with health problems.

6. Conclusion

ACG, idol, and hip-hop culture identities are associated with adverse psychological outcomes (i.e., depressive symptoms, anxiety, suicidal ideation, aggression), and reputation is a robust mediating variable of such an association.

Declarations

Author contribution statement.

Yinghao Liu; Yingxu Liu: Conceived and designed the experiments; Performed the experiments; Analyzed and interpreted the data; Contributed reagents, materials, analysis tools or data; Wrote the paper.

Jiahao Wen: Analyzed and interpreted the data; Contributed reagents, materials, analysis tools or data.

Funding statement

This research is supported by the WISE Program on AI Electronics by Tohoku University and MEXT’s University Fellowship Founding Project for Innovation Creation in Science and Technology.

Data availability statement

Declaration of interest’s statement.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Additional information

No additional information is available for this paper.

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Yingxu Liu, Jiahao Wen and anonymous reviewers for their contribution. This research is supported by the WISE Program on AI Electronics in Tohoku University and MEXT’s University Fellowship Founding Project for Innovation Creation in Science and Technology.

Appendix A. Correlation Matrix with significant level

∗ denote siginifican level lower than 0.05.

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What New Love Does to Your Brain

Roses are red, violets are blue. Romance can really mess with you.

An illustration of two heads facing each other; flowers grow out of the heads and they join together in the middle.

By Dana G. Smith

New love can consume our thoughts, supercharge our emotions and, on occasion, cause us to act out of character.

“People pine for love, they live for love, they kill for love and they die for love,” said Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. “It’s one of the most powerful brain systems the human animal has ever evolved.”

Scientists have studied what is happening in our brains when we are in those early, heady days of infatuation, and whether it can actually alter how we think and what we do. Their findings suggest that song lyrics and dramatic plotlines don’t overstate it: New love can mess with our heads.

Experts define “romantic love” as a connection deeper than lust, but distinct from the attachment associated with a long-term partnership. In a few of the small studies that have examined this googly-eyed state, researchers put people in the early stages of a romantic relationship (typically less than a year) in M.R.I. scanners to see what was happening in their brains while they looked at pictures of their paramours. They found that the participants showed increased activity in areas of the brain that are rich in the neurochemical dopamine and control feelings of wanting and desire. These regions are also activated by drugs like cocaine, leading some experts to liken love to a sort of “ natural addiction .”

Studies on prairie voles (yes, you read that right) back up these findings. The rodents are one of the few mammal species that mate for life, so researchers sometimes use them as a scientific model for human partnerships. Studies show that when these animals pair up, the brain’s reward system is similarly activated, triggering the release of dopamine.

“Romantic love does not emanate from your cerebral cortex, where you do your thinking; it does not emanate from the brain regions in the middle of your head, linked with the limbic areas, linked with emotions,” said Dr. Fisher, who conducted one of the first human studies on the topic and, along with her role at the Kinsey Institute, is the chief science adviser to Match.com. “It’s based in the brain regions linked with drive, with focus, with motivation.”

This type of dopamine activity may explain why, in the early stages of love, you have the irresistible urge to be with your beloved constantly — what the addiction literature calls “craving.” Indeed, preliminary research conducted by Sandra Langeslag, an associate professor in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, suggests that some people crave their lover like they crave a drug.

In one of the few studies to directly compare love and addiction, which is still ongoing and has not yet been published, Dr. Langeslag showed 10 people who vaped nicotine either pictures of their lover or pictures of other people vaping (a classic experiment used to invoke craving). The participants ranked their desire to be with their partner higher than their desire to vape.

Other research by Dr. Langeslag’s lab looked at the single-mindedness of love — of being unable to think about anything besides your paramour. In a series of small studies on people in the throes of new love, Dr. Langeslag found that participants reported thinking about the object of their desire roughly 65 percent of their waking hours and said they had trouble focusing on unrelated topics. However, when people were prompted with information related to their beloved, they showed increased attention and had enhanced memory .

There is also some evidence that love can render people oblivious to a new partner’s faults — the “love is blind” phenomenon. Lucy Brown, a professor of neuroscience at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that when some study participants were shown pictures of their lover early in a relationship, they had less activity in a part of the prefrontal cortex that is important for decision-making and evaluating others. The findings suggest that we might “suspend negative judgments of the person we’re in love with,” she said.

If love can alter our motivation and attention, perhaps it’s no surprise that people sometimes go to extremes when they’re in its thrall. But giving into your obsession with your lover isn’t necessarily “irrational” behavior, at least from an evolutionary perspective, Dr. Langeslag said.

Scientists believe humans evolved to have these types of responses — which seem to be consistent across age, gender and culture — because bonding and mating are essential for the survival of the species.

“Romantic love is a drive,” Dr. Fisher said. “It’s a basic mating drive that evolved millions of years ago to send your DNA onto tomorrow. And it can overlook just about anything.”

Dana G. Smith is a Times reporter covering personal health, particularly aging and brain health. More about Dana G. Smith

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