Mood-Altering Wearables Are Silicon Valley’s Newest Delusion

New devices tap into the age-old promises of mood alteration

Aimee Pearcy
Published in
5 min readDec 10, 2019


Credit: ELF emmit

You’ve got a deadline tomorrow, and you’re sitting in a coffee shop staring at a blank screen on your laptop.

Your mind is racing, and every slight noise seems to irritate you more.

The crying baby in the queue.

The woman talking loudly on her phone across the room.

You reach inside your bag and pull out your wearable wristband, set it to “calm,” and slip it onto your wrist.

Within a few minutes, you suddenly feel… calm.

You take a sip of coffee and begin writing.

The increasing popularity of wearable tech

In 2016, there were 526 million connected wearable devices worldwide. Studies have shown that by 2022, there are expected to be over 1.1 billion. Given the rise of the health-conscious consumer, tech that tracks your heart rate, your blood pressure, and more recently, even your mood is likely to become increasingly popular over the next decade.

But what about tech that allows you to manipulate your mood? Given the increasing number of people suffering from stress, depression, and anxiety, it’s easy to see why this concept is so popular.

But could it ever really be as simple as slipping on a wearable and pushing a button?

Wearable tech is a new phenomenon — but manipulating your mood is not

In 1954, Peter Milner and James Olds implanted an electrode in the pleasure center of rat brains and hooked it up to a button. The rats repeatedly pressed the button as much as possible, so much so that they gave up food, water, and sex until they eventually died. Since then, there have been a number of studies on the effects of mood-influencing technology.

Electromagnetic therapy has not been approved by the FDA, or anyone else.

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Aimee Pearcy

Tech journalist & copywriter. Contact me at