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Dodge the persuasive trap of bro science

Saturday, May 12, 2018
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 aspire to. 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 that 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. And 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 actually a savvy health consumer; so when you hear a new claim pause, take a deep breath, and ask yourself “where’s the evidence for this?” Because online health ‘advice’ might just 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 for you, absolutely, but do your due diligence too: Look for links to peer-reviewed research articles backing up the claim, and maybe talk it over with your health practitioner, who can help you decipher whether that health claim is genuine.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy "Don't Let Your Health Get Caught In a Web of Deceit"

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