Sorting the good advice from the bad is never easy for the layman, but is further complicated by the ‘confirmation bias’ that is hardwired into the human brain.
Who has not surfed the health websites, typing in their symptoms to find an illness or condition to match their ailment? There’s a neat word for these self-diagnosers, which I learnt just the other day – cyberchondriacs. Perhaps you are one of them.
Our interest in our own wellbeing doesn’t stop when we get over whatever has been afflicting us. It extends to all aspects of our health, especially our diet.
We would all like reassurance that a foodstuff we can’t live without isn’t too unhealthy. So we scan the medical sites (some more DIY than NHS) and scroll down old 2009 bulletin boards, all the while thinking: “This person’s highly critical, but he’s probably too extreme to be taken seriously… that person can’t spell so I can’t be bothered with his opinions … aha – this is what I want to hear. Chocolate hobnobs are very wholesome in moderation and good for you as part of a balanced diet.”
So we come away with confirmation of the fact we wanted and hoped to be confirmed. Never mind whether there’s any science behind it.