The Headline “According to Science” is almost always a lie

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

#1. Real Simple

#2. Lifehacker

  • Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally produced by your body.
  • It’s often referred to as the “stress hormone”, but cortisol is actually involved in a number of processes throughout the body, including immune response, stress response, and managing levels of glucose.

#3. Eat This, Not That

#4. Body and Soul

We should be dubious of scientific information we read from the media

Media is a business.

To me, “according to science” is a pithy, vague attempt to add credibility to under-researched nonsense by calling upon the highest possible power: science.

…And science is facing its own crisis of repeatability

So what is the solution? Is there one?

  1. What was the sample size? While there’s no hard and fast rule for this, generally, the bigger, the better. If they tested 2 people having a bath, we wouldn’t trust those results. But if they tested 2000 people, that’s a more reliable data point. Even better if it’s an aggregation of multiple studies (called a “review”).
  2. Where is it published? If the Harvard Business Review publishes an article about how baths may help you concentrate, that’s a more reliable source than Lifehacker or EatThisNotThat.
  3. Who funded the study? If this was an independent research project taken on by an academic team who were curious about baths, I’d be more likely to trust it. Conversely, if it was funded by Dove, I’d be skeptical: they have a vested interest in me taking baths (especially bubble baths with their products).
  4. Was the study done in humans? If we’re curious about when we should bathe, it’s not super relevant to learn about how baths impact mice or rats.
  1. What were their methods? Ideally, you want something “double-blind and randomized” — basically meaning that participants are randomly assigned to a group (bath or no bath); and the researchers don’t know who’s getting what (bath or no bath). At the end, the scientists review the outcomes of all participants, and draw conclusions based on the data alone — without being biased toward one outcome or another.
  2. Were there confounding variables? Basically, were there things that could have influenced the study? Like, did the people assigned to the “bath” group all go for a run right before, which may be responsible for any perceived benefit?



Talking about the things people are afraid to talk about. LGBT+, Startup Culture, Diversity.

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Brigitte Dreger

Talking about the things people are afraid to talk about. LGBT+, Startup Culture, Diversity.