When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

19 January 2008

New and improved prevarication

Lying is a time-honored strategy for misleading someone; it's wonderfully effective in the short term, and if you construct the lie well enough, it will hold up brilliantly over time... at least to the extent that you can fool some of the people all of the time, as Honest Abe had it.

But most of us aren't that smart.

A much better plan is to stick to the truth, but be extremely selective about the information you share. In other words, "don't tell everything you know."

Cherrypicking the facts that support your argument gives you the appearance of intellectual honesty, with most of the advantages you'd have obtained by lying in the first place.

Just ask the drug companies:

The makers of antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil never published the results of about a third of the drug trials that they conducted to win government approval, misleading doctors and consumers about the drugs’ true effectiveness, a new analysis has found.

In published trials, about 60 percent of people taking the drugs report significant relief from depression, compared with roughly 40 percent of those on placebo pills. But when the less positive, unpublished trials are included, the advantage shrinks: the drugs outperform placebos, but by a modest margin, concludes the new report, which appears Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Previous research had found a similar bias toward reporting positive results for a variety of medications; and many researchers have questioned the reported effectiveness of antidepressants. But the new analysis, reviewing data from 74 trials involving 12 drugs, is the most thorough to date. And it documents a large difference: while 94 percent of the positive studies found their way into print, just 14 percent of those with disappointing or uncertain results did.

Antidepressant studies unpublished (New York Times, 19 January 2008)

No comments: