How to Spot Pseudoscience

With all of the information from blogging sites and peer-reviewed articles floating around on the internet, it can be difficult for the average ready to discern science from pseudoscience. Marketing companies like to utilize the latter in promotions of various products all too often. Terms like “doctor recommended” or “mom approved” are virtually meaningless and rarely have any in-depth studies supporting their claims. While it’s extremely difficult to complete a totally accurate study on anything (after all, ethnic background, gender, age, and genetics can all considerably alter the results), there are some red flags you should definitely avoid when basing your own lifestyle choices on any claims.

  • Where is the information coming from? The first thing you want to ask yourself is where this information is coming from. Did you read it on a blogging site, or does the author have credentials to back up their assertions? Blogging sites can be very useful for finding recipes or what types of laundry detergents there are, but mental and physical health discussions should be left to the experts.


  • Can the results be reproduced? Of course, for anything to be accepted as true or factual in science it must be reproduce-able. Was the study or science behind it a secret, or are there published research results anywhere? Vague assertions are also to be questioned. If a campaign is arguing that their product makes people “healthier”, the statement is difficult to disprove since it doesn’t explicitly explain how it’s making a person healthier in the first place.


  • Are the claims making extraordinary promises? Another red flag to watch out for are extraordinary claims, such as “last diet pill you will ever need” or “doctor has uncovered secret to [fill in the blank]”. If it truly is an amazing solution, there will be handfuls of tests, studies, and results to back it up.


  • Is the evidence mostly testimonial based? Testimonials let us know that real people have tried the solution or product and that it did in fact work for them. What they don’t tell us is how many people it’s worked for or what the side effects can be. Every mind and body are completely unique, so some medical and mental health solutions don’t work for everyone. Research lets us know the percentages and variables to help us decide if it will work for us too. If a claim is relying heavily on anecdotal evidence, it could be a sign they are trying to hide something.


  • Is there an agenda behind the information/product? Lastly, even researched results could be inherently biased if there is an agenda or someone stands to gain profit from the results of the study. Understanding who funded the study can give us insight as to the credibility of the results.

From commercials to social media, we are bombarded with “truths” thrown at us all the time, mostly trying to convince us to buy a product or service. Having the above filters will help you decide what’s actually worth listening to and what you can just ignore.