Babytown Frolics: Dismissing Research You Don’t Like

All too seldom, nutrition and obesity research informs the policies aimed at solving problems of obesity, nutrition, and related health issues. Most everyone eats and weighs themselves, so dismissing research you don’t like is easy. Personal experience can trump the research. So, we convince ourselves that all we need to do is tell those people with obesity to eat less and move more — problem solved. Never mind research that shows this disease is far more complex.

For policymakers who need a more sophisticated approach to dismissing research not to their liking, the Washington Post Wonkblog offered up a wonderful schematic to guide us step by step. The best part is advice to dismiss particularly thin research as “babytown frolics.”

We also have more sophisticated ways to dismiss research that does not fit with our agenda. White Hat Bias is a concept advanced by Mark Cope and David Allison of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In a 2010 paper, they document how bias that serves a good cause can distort scientific literature and lead to flawed decision making.

Last year, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study demonstrating that industry funding now has a more powerful (negative) impact on how physicians interpret research findings than the quality of the research itself. They tend to ignore high quality research funded by industry, just because of the funding.

We need policy driven by evidence, not bias. The first step is to recognize that bias comes from many surprising sources, including ourselves.

Click here to read more from the Washington Post, click here to read more from Cope and Allison, and click here to read more from the New England Journal of Medicine.

Positive Baby, photograph © / flickr

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