On Sunday, Kanye West pulled his long-awaited new album The Life of Pablo from his online store just 12 hours after it was released, apparently because he’d suddenly decided his track “Wolves” was not up to his artistic standards. This was just the latest development in Kanye’s weeks-long public emotional battle with himself, a spectacle that his fans have found equally baffling and concerning.
Has Ye finally gone over the edge? While all signs point to “absofuckinglutely,” a new study from the University of Waterloo suggests that his mixed feelings are not a sign of indecision but are actually evidence of serious emotional depth.
In the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the authors note that Western culture tends to view conflicting feelings — the emotional turmoil behind Kanye’s manic leaps from So Help Me God to Swish to Waves to T.L.O.P. are a perfect example — as indecisive or “wishy-washy,” qualities that are generally considered undesirable and have been linked to a lack of emotional control and the incidence of depression.
Turns out, however, that having mixed feelings is a sign that a person is better at “differentiating their emotions and experience their lives in an emotionally rich and balanced fashion,” as the study’s lead author, Igor Grossmann, Ph.D., stated in a release. People with this sort of emotional complexity, he suggests, are more likely to come from cultures that promote a focus on others rather than a focus on the self.
The authors used data from across 16 cultures — roughly grouped into “self-oriented” and “other-oriented”— to assess the different ways people dealt with and viewed mixed emotions, correlating their findings to markers of emotional complexity. In one part of the study, they analyzed how often mixed emotional expressions came up in 1.3 million English websites and blogs; in another, they examined how people reported experiencing mixed feelings and whether they differentiated between positive and negative experiences, drawing correlations between their findings and the text’s culture of origin.
They concluded that, compared to people from other-oriented regions like Asia and Russia, people from self-oriented cultures — Western nations like the U.S., the U.K., and Canada — were less inclined to and therefore were less able to view situations from different perspectives, thus rendering them less emotionally complex.
Kanye may be as American and self-centered as it gets, but given the results of the study, his ability and willingness to deliberate back and forth, publicly doubting and confirming his own beliefs, does suggest that he’s constantly seeking emotional balance and isn’t afraid to show it — a marked departure from prevailing Western attitudes toward indecision and a sign of considerable emotional complexity.
Could you expect anything less from our generation’s “greatest living artist”?