Friday, December 18, 2009

Mohawks preferred over other hairstyles: study

Those claiming to do science sometimes fail. One way they may fail is by profound selection bias. For example:

Perform a study in which volunteers receive a free head shaving leaving only a strip of hair down the center (Mohawk). Ask participants how they feel about their hairstyle before and after. Find that more participants like their Mohawk better than their original hairstyle. Conclude Mohawks are very well liked compared to other hairstyles.

Really? Are Mohawks so well liked, or is there another explanation? Can you really walk down the street and Mohawk a random person and expect them to prefer it? No, but if you put up a "free Mohawk" stand along the street and let participants self-select, then yes, volunteers probably will like it.

And so it is here:

Sex equally satisfying with circumcised men: study

They put up a sign: "Free circumcision" for your partner when you both participate. Some couples selected themselves to participate. Women who recognize the positive role their partner's foreskin plays in their sexual experience didn't sign up. Men who find their foreskins lots of fun didn't sign up, either. Couples who wanted their male circumcised could sign up for one at no cost (although may need to wait for it). It's a profound bias.

Bad science happens. Science is good because the bad science is eventually seen for its flaws, but very bad policy may result more quickly.

Bailey said the finding might also help counter a growing reluctance of some parents to have their infant sons circumcised. "In the US, there is currently a strong movement against circumcision, especially on the West Coast," he said.

I (@IntactByDefault on Twitter) have an agenda, and that is for freedom from non-therapeutic circumcision to be recognized as everybody's right (hence the #i2 campaign). I am a part of this growing reluctance to deprive children of their right to choose genital integrity. Others have their own agendas. Some even want the world Mohawked.


If you think this blog post helps shine light on how bad science may influence bad policy, you are welcome to republish it in its entirety.