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The Science of Research

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iPhone, vsco cam edits, Washington DC

If you haven’t figured out the mass media by now, then you must be living under a rock that’s in a cave, deep down in the core of the earth (which is likely not even humanly possible). They love anything that will make big headlines and keep the money rolling in.

That’s their bottom line – money. I’m very sorry if you think otherwise.

Of course that’s not to say we can’t trust some media outlets and some of what they say, but there are many out there who are merely attempting to catch your attention through click-bate stories.

One type is the scientific research stories. You may have heard last week about how swaddling your baby can cause SIDS or taking folate during pregnancy can cause autism. Except you’ve likely heard parents have swaddled their newborns (or you are parent who did) and that folate is important to prevent health issues like spina bifida in children, with no known consequences.

Something millions have been doing for decades is now coming into question. Except, maybe we need to read a little further into studies. And I mean any study that comes out.

Remember the one that came out about farts curing cancer? [Insert disapproving and questioning face here.]

When science and the media collide, the main findings are almost completely lost in snappy headlines. Rarely do people dig deeper to learn more about the study itself.

Take for example the one about swaddling and SIDS. If you read The Atlantic article on it, you would have learned a lot more, and bonus, they are writing for a lay audience (basically it’s easy to read and understand). For example, some babies were found to have died from SIDS from being swaddled and ending up rolling over onto their stomach. But that has more to do with the age of the infant, because after a few months (basically when they can start rolling over – this differs from child to child), you should really stop swaddling them and use a wearable blanket instead.

But that one finding and explanation is too long of a headline. Instead, several in the mass media ran with a headline that was something along the lines of Swaddling Causes SIDS and this creates nothing but panic.

As for the folate and autism study? I’m actually shocked Johns Hopkins put out a press release about it. In fact, it was extremely dangerous and irresponsible of them to do so. Why? Because this study hasn’t even been peer reviewed yet. And of course the headlines that ran were completely taken out of context (shocker). Again, The Atlantic went into more detail, explaining the story in a more responsible manner.

It’s so very important to not only be aware of what is happening around us, but to be responsible and continuously ask questions, while digging around for more information. With scientific research, if you want to go to the original source, then just read the abstract and actual study online (the majority if not all are published online now).

If I still haven’t convinced you, watch John Oliver’s story about it from May 8. He’s not only hilarious, but actually very informative.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve always known the media was full of shit but never did it become more apparent than after I became a parent. See what I did there?

    Then there are the antivaxes. Don’t get me started on those asshats.

    May 18, 2016
    • Marie #

      OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG don’t get me started on those people either!!! Grrrrrr

      May 18, 2016
  2. And here I was just going to comment to ask whether you’d seen the John Oliver show on this topic – freaking hilarious. You’re right. It’s all about money. Media companies wanting those attention grabbing headlines without even understanding what they’re communicating or the effect it could have. UGH.

    May 19, 2016

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