A big, new experiment shows it’s possible to train kids to detect dubious health claims.
Andy Oxman is obsessed with the study of bullshit health claims and how to prevent them from spreading.
For decades, he’s been trying to find ways to get adults to think critically about the latest diet fads, vaccine rumors, or “miracle cures.” But he realized these efforts are often in vain: Adults can be stubborn old dogs — resistant to learning new things and changing their minds.
So Oxman, now the research director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, started to wonder whether the best hope for bullshit prevention lay with children. To put this idea to the test, back in 2000 he visited his then-10-year-old son’s class.
“I told them that some teenagers had discovered that red M&Ms gave them a good feeling in their body and helped them write and draw more quickly,” Oxman said. “But there also were some bad effects: a little pain in their stomach, and they got dizzy if they stood up quickly.”
He challenged the kids to try to find out if the teens were right. He split the class into small groups and gave each group a bag of M&Ms.
The children quickly figured out they had to try eating M&Ms of different colors to find out what happens, but that it wouldn’t be a fair test if they could see the color of the M&Ms. In other words, they intuitively understood the concept of “blinding” in a clinical trial. (This is when researchers prevent study participants and doctors from knowing who got what treatment so they’re less likely to be biased about the outcome.)
In a short time, they were running their own blinded, randomized trials — the gold standard for testing medical claims …read more
Source:: Vox – All