Why do some parents object to their children being vaccinated? Why do some people keep weapons in their homes despite scientific proof that they pose a threat to their family? And why do individuals use antibiotics to treat ailments that can't be cured? Many people believe that science is erroneous, that evidence is insufficient, and that unrecognized threats lurk everywhere when it comes to health.
Gorman and Gorman, a father-daughter partnership, study the psychology of health science denial in Denying to the Grave. They propose six key principles that may lead people to reject "accepted" health-related wisdom, using several examples of denial as test cases: the charismatic leader; fear of complexity; confirmation bias and the internet; fear of corporate and government conspiracies; causality and filling the ignorance gap; and the nature of risk prediction. The authors believe that the health sciences are particularly vulnerable to our natural aversion to combining new ideas with pre-existing views. As scientists continue to find brain responses to new knowledge that suggest deep-seated, innate discomfort with changing our ideas, this psychological problem of absorbing new information is at the forefront of neuroscience research.
Denying to the Grave delves into risk theory and how people make judgments about what is best for themselves and their loved ones in order to gain a better understanding of how people think about major health decisions. This book paves the path for a new and critical view of how science should be communicated to the general people in order to save lives using current knowledge and technology.
Sara Gorman, PhD, MPH, is a New York-based public health and mental health expert and author. She is the Director of High School Programming at The Jed Foundation (JED), a mental health and suicide prevention organization for teenagers and young adults.
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