life, relationships, mental health, & technology
I frequently post links to articles and blog posts related to mental health, relationships, and parenting on this blog. In my search for links to post on the blog today, I came across the following on ABC News’ website [full disclosure: I’ve linked to ABC News in the past and will do so when I find something that I think is useful]:
With that headline, I immediately clicked since I figured that there was finally some research that clearly makes a valid case against corporal punishment (something I often deal with in session with parents who have lost custody of their children because of physical abuse). As I read the post and clicked through to the source material, it became apparent to me that this was another example of baiting readers with a headline that can lead to misinformation about a study’s actual findings.
The study DOES NOT find a causal relationship between corporal punishment and adult mental illness; in fact it says so in the blog post itself. I am NO FAN of corporal punishment and I am aware that that is more the result of my own personal biases than of any definitive scientific literature (even though there are MANY studies out there that frown upon corporal punishment). The issue I have here isn’t with the study (there are PLENTY OF PROFESSIONALS who have effectively voiced their concerns with the study in question on the MedPage Today website), it’s with the misleading nature of the headline. How can you lead off a story by saying that “A causes B” and then go on to say that “it can’t be said that A causes B”? Doing this is irresponsible because it will inevitably cause people who scan headlines and don’t read articles to believe a false statement. Sure we can balk at the people that just scan headlines but those are the same people that the people that published these posts were going for.
I don’t really take issue with ABC News because their post was done by a staff writer. The MedPage Today post appears to have been reviewed by 2 medical professionals… I wonder if they had to review the headline as well. The bottom line is that more care needs to be taken to not put forth headlines that could lead to erroneous assumptions.
2012 Roger S. Gil