Bad Science Journalism

Huffington Post Science published an article on a research study “proving” that heterosexual men and women can’t be platonic friends. I immediately had questions about the problematic assumptions and methodology of this study… except they never bothered linking to the study; they didn’t think it was relevant to name the researchers or the journal or website where the original data are published. Instead, there are a bunch of silly and irrelevant links, a couple of which may be paid links to advertisers.

This type of lazy science journalism is very disturbing. Stories like this are published “fact” (“Science says men and women can’t be friends”) and then shared by the general public who don’t understand science. All this does is verify “common sense” assumptions that science is set up to critically explore. How are scientists meant to critique and engage with such a poorly written article? 

2 thoughts on “Bad Science Journalism

  1. The article doesn’t even give you the required piece of information needed to “prove” that men and women can’t be just friends, which is the percentage of people who experienced romantic attraction to their friend. They say that men experience more attraction than women, but there is no mention of numbers. What if 5% of men felt romantical for their friend, and only 3% of women did? What if those numbers were 80% and 70%? The reader has no way of knowing, he/she can only believe the conclusion. This kind of article is really dangerous for the general public which has few tools with which to critique the science as it’s presented.


  2. Yes, thanks for your thoughts, Tess Kornfield. It is dangerous to cite vague impressions of statistics without giving us any actual figures or any of the context. Who made up the sample? It’s an experiment – but what were the conditions? What questions were asked? Very dangerous, serves to perpetuate overly simplistic ideas about gender, sexuality and social relationships.


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