…especially the way it’s reported in newspapers.
Psychologists find gene that helps you look on the bright side of life.
Those unfortunate enough to lack the ‘brightside gene’ are more likely to suffer from mental health problems such as depression
That’s a headline from today’s online Guardian and probably the paper version, too, followed by an utterly useless article – read it here – from a “science correspondent” in which the journalist has simply re-written a press release. Which is unfortunate, because the whole thing is just a bit pointless. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have the gene (if I have, it’s hiding!), but neither am I at all prone to mental illness, so what does that say about the results?
I said it’s pointless because it involved a test population of “over 100 people”. So what’s that, 101 or 199 , or somewhere in between? Whatever, it’s far too few. Iit’s quite impossible to come to any meaningful conclusions, or any conclusions at all other than “looks promising, needs more research,” with such a tiny test population – and that applies to all medical research.
That, of course, is something I would expect t a “science correspondent” to be perfectly aware of – except it’s not mentioned. What we got – and this happens far too often, and in all newspapers – was a rehashing of a press release which was no more than mildly interesting, presented as hard science – and that’s fundamentally dishonest. It’s bloody lazy journalism, too.
This is why I repeatedly exhort people, when it comes to reports like this in newspapers (this one is innocuous, but often, and especially in the Daily Mail, it’s blatant scaremongering), to make some effort to find out – if it’s a subject that might affect them – what the facts actually are behind the report. In this case the hack did at least point up the size of the test population, which is far too small to be of any practical use.
Note: when you read the article you’ll see a comment that looks as if I’ve plagiarised it (scroll down below the article to get to the comments). I didn’t plagiarise it; the writer, LePendu, is me. (LePendu [the Hanged Man Tarot card], because I spend a lot of time hanging around there!)