How to dodge traps of ‘bro sci­ence’

Tweed Daily News - - LIFE MILESTONES - OLWEN AN­DER­SON Olwen An­der­son is a natur­opath and coun­sel­lor. www.ol­we­nan­der­

THERE’S a new force in sci­ence that some peo­ple are find­ing far more cred­i­ble than their prac­ti­tion­ers.

It’s earned the la­bel “bro sci­ence” – the health advice dis­pensed by close friends that seems be­liev­able but might not be real.

Whether that advice is ac­cu­rate or not is a moot point – true be­liev­ers of bro sci­ence find the pro­nounce­ments of their friends far more con­vinc­ing than their qual­i­fied health prac­ti­tion­ers.

Here’s an ex­am­ple of bro sci­ence in ac­tion: a fel­low fit­ness fa­natic at the gym men­tions some new prod­uct he’s found that will help you get the re­sults you want. It might be an im­ported sup­ple­ment that can only be pur­chased on­line be­cause it’s not avail­able in Aus­tralia.

Your prac­ti­tioner, hear­ing of your new sup­ple­ment, might point out this par­tic­u­lar prod­uct is ac­tu­ally rather danger­ous and that’s why it isn’t sold here.

But if you’re an ad­her­ent of bro sci­ence, you might de­cide that your prac­ti­tioner doesn’t know as much as your mate about these things. Be­sides, all the proof that it’s safe is on­line. Isn’t it?

The traps of bro sci­ence are ev­ery­where. You’ve prob­a­bly seen so­cial me­dia posts list­ing foods you must not eat, ex­er­cise you must do or “sci­ence says”.

But you’re a savvy health con­sumer, so when you hear a new claim, pause, take a breath and ask your­self: “Where’s the ev­i­dence for this?” Be­cause on­line health advice might have been cre­ated on the fly. Just click bait.

One of the most use­ful skills you can ac­quire in man­ag­ing your health is crit­i­cal anal­y­sis. We all have a ten­dency to be­lieve what’s told to us, par­tic­u­larly when it comes from some­one we like and ad­mire.

Trust is a pow­er­ful per­suader. Words are pow­er­ful per­suaders too and words in print are eas­ily given more power than they some­times de­serve by virtue of be­ing in print.

Nowa­days we have ac­cess to moun­tains of in­for­ma­tion on­line but our abil­ity to as­sess what we’re read­ing per­haps hasn’t yet caught up with the pace of pub­lish­ing in cy­berspace.

What do you do, then, if your good mate tries to con­vince you of some bro sci­ence that re­ally isn’t plau­si­ble?

Ap­pre­ci­ate their con­cern but do your due dili­gence. Look for links to peer­re­viewed re­search ar­ti­cles back­ing up the claim and talk it over with your health prac­ti­tioner, who can help you de­ci­pher whether that health claim is gen­uine.

❝You might de­cide that your prac­ti­tioner doesn’t know as much as your mate ...

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