Why Do People Keep Falling For Things That Don't Work?

Why Do People Keep Falling For Things That Don't Work?

There’s one particular mental trap that seems to fool everyone, especially those WITH medical knowledge.

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Watch this video free of ads at Nebula: https://nebula.tv/videos/medlifecrisis-why-people-keep-falling-for-things-that-dont-work

My video on vaccines and people’s reactions: https://youtu.be/5iABaxRWGxk
My video on bias, which mentions other failed therapies (two parter): https://youtu.be/ooWA4tM_gUs

Kevin Klatt’s post https://www.instagram.com/p/Cb72YXVLCf3/
Andrew Steele’s dissection of ‘Blueprint’ longevity plan https://youtu.be/7rs_JK-pTTQ

Writing: Rohin Francis
Editing: Tanmay Nandanikar and Rohin Francis
Thumbnail design: Simon Buckmaster

0:00 Intro
3:41 The demarcation problem
6:44 Pseudoscience
9:06 Homeopathy and chiropractic
11:20 It’s nice to feel nice
13:37 Bioplausibility
16:39 The mechanistic bias
17:06 Hard vs soft; clean vs messy science
20:25 Mechanistic examples: COVID Rx and masks
24:40 Diets
28:12 Vitamin D supplements
36:36 The Big Pharma graveyard
45:33 Most therapies don’t work
47:07 Influencers’ love of sexy mechanisms
50:25 Closing summary


Convalescent plasma doesn’t work https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00897-7/fulltext
Meta-research: A comprehensive review of randomized clinical trials in three medical journals reveals 396 medical reversals https://elifesciences.org/articles/45183
Most healthcare interventions don’t work https://www.jclinepi.com/article/S0895-4356(22)00100-7/fulltext
COVID experts give Thanksgiving tips https://www.statnews.com/2022/11/21/how-infectious-disease-experts-are-responding-to-covid-nearly-three-years-in/
VITAL study (vitamin D) https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2202106?query=featured_home https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2205993
VITAL website https://www.vitalstudy.org/index.html
Vitamin D in kids https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2798998
MAST pants don’t work https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10796828/
Nesiritide https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.118.005440
REDOX https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1212722
PANTHER IPF https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1212722
OSCILLATE https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1215554


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25 thoughts on “Why Do People Keep Falling For Things That Don't Work?”

  1. Very good one, I just don't get why you don't trust randomised controlled trials when it's about, for example, turmeric. There are hundreds of them. Aren't you falling on the same biases you attribute to others, that no evidence is good enough to convince you against your biases?

  2. Thanks Rohin. T'was a well put video explaining the mechanism fallacy or bio plausibility fallacy that fools so many people every year around the world.

    I hope this message reaches the maximum numbers of people possible, they have to know sexy buzzwords are not so sexy irl after all.

  3. First, I pay for YouTube so it’s extremely rude to put sponsors in here. Second, your placement of said ad towards the beginning means it’s the most important thing to you in this video. I am going to unsubscribe and never return, but if you want to keep your remaining audience, you may consider putting them at the end or not at all. Goodbye.

  4. As a nurse with osteoarthritis I am aware that some things I take to help have no scientific basis. I do take them anyway because it makes me feel better and that helps me live life a little better.

  5. The saying that there is a hundred ways to fail screwing in a lightbulb but one way does work is relevant to medicine. There are hundreds of medicines that don't work, and when the bulb doesn't light it means someone dies. But eventually progress is made and you learn on the way.

  6. Just wanted to pop in and say that although I appreciate the message and agree with most of it, I felt that your approach to the topic could have been made more approachable. The exact people who would benefit from hearing this are exactly those who would feel criticized by it or made to feel like they’re dumb, ignorant or gullible. In fact, I’m sure there are many out there who, although they don’t know the mechanism for it, feel like what they’re doing is working. And it is either a) placebo effect, b) an actual effect we just don’t understand yet or c) some combination of the above. But whether a), b) or c), the patient is happy. They shouldn’t feel ashamed if their problem seems solved as long as there’s no harm done, and that’s probably something that should be said at the beginning instead of the end so that such viewers allow themselves to be more open to listening.
    I work in clinical trials actually. It’s easier to hold up RCTs on a pedestal when you haven’t watched someone conducting the day to day of one or listened in on discussions on what goes in the report, but it is absolutely the best we have. At the same time, I am a fan of chiropractic because PT has worked but only when I was actively doing it (difficult to maintain) but chiropractic has passively helped me feel “less bad” (not exactly better) and is something i can maintain. I know there is no science to explain why it should help and yet I wish to reap the benefits. I’ve stopped for 2 years and gotten worse, and have seen practitioners that were doing almost (but noticeably not exactly) the same thing but were not effective too.
    Simultaneously, I too reject the idea of vit D supplementation to “prevent” something. And yet, when I went to see my PCP recently, I was totally prepared for them to give me high dose vit D or something again and I was so done with it that I planned to “no thanks” it – to my surprise, she suggested that generally maintaining higher vit D levels is recommended for RA symptom control, and to take normal gummies. I’m under 40, I’ll try ANYTHING this harmless to help with my RA symptoms or improve my long term prognosis – getting more outdoor exercise really isn’t likely to help with my finger joint pain.
    Lastly, I have also tried keto. I am under 125lbs, it is really hard to lose 5lbs. To this day, it is the only diet that has ever made me lose anything close to 5lbs, even when I did caloric restriction. I tracked the calories during keto too, and they weren’t actually lower. I don’t do it anymore – being consistent long term is key to any diet. Maybe I am my own experiment sometimes (n=1), but you are spot on about evidence based medicine.

  7. I'm vaguely aware of some of the far out there ideas in chiropractic practice and that's kind of like Heimlich thinking his maneuver could cure things like allergies. That doesn't mean the maneuver wasn't still good for clearing breathing blockages. In the same way, I have chronic back issues, and I've been to physical therapy. It takes months for it to get me back on my feet. I've been to a spinal surgeon but he couldn't do anything. A chiropractor gets me walking and able to sleep through the night every single time and almost recovered after two visits. If I put it off, I don't heal. I've tested. So hammer let go, hammer fell. I think doctors resisting this basic use of manipulation is the real pseudo science. It's flat out ignoring evidence.

    Oh and periodic fasting has been shown in a recent study to reverse type 2 diabetes. So, keep up with your studies and stop poo pooing the bacterial origin of gastric ulcers. Because that's a thing the medical industry said was ridiculous. Remember that?

    Doctors aren't scientists. They're trained in dogma and serve as priests. If you introduce data they haven't noticed, their dogmatic minds shut down.

    But yeah homeopathy is garbage.

  8. So, if you are saying that weight loss is only a matter of calories, then a number of thinkers on the subject, such as Gary Taubes, Tim Noakes, Paul Mason could argue the contrary case. And, I would expect them to win. The amount of heat(calories) that can be derived from food is not the same as the amount of energy that the body can extract.The essential characteristic of scientific thinking is the matching of the strength of a belief with the strength of evidence that supports that belief. Easier said than done.As difficult for you, apparently, as it is for me.

  9. You hit on an interesting point that i can add a bit to right at the end about people wanting to use science to justify doing things they enjoy. I think there are a couple social forces causing this kind of thinking in a lot of cases.

    There is this very strong perception (especially in north america) that we all must be as productive as possible in our lives, that hard work is virtuous and relaxation is immoral. Call it hustle culture or the protestant work ethic, either way it's a very prominent value system and it comes with a lot of shame for anyone who does anything simply for the enjoyment of it. There's a good chance if you mention to someone that you get a massage once a month that they will think you're being frivolous and are somehow lazy. however, if you say you go to a chiropractor once a month to realign your bones or whatever the perception tends to be very different. Now you're there to fix your body and improve your health, you're being productive as you need a healthy body to be able to work. hell, you're literally making your body function more efficiently (well not really but that's the intent or perception of it). There is so much shame and guilt associated with simply taking the time to rest and enjoy something without material gains — especially if that thing costs money — that i think a lot of people look for those scientific-sounding health explanations to avoid the social stigma. we really need to realize that rest, relaxation, and pleasure are not morally corrupt. also need to tell anyone who brags about how little sleep they get where they can shove it (i say as someone who's definitely participated in this before)

    hell, i could point out how these kinds of activities are genuinely very good for our mental health and how that's just as important as things that are good for our physical health but i feel like I'm falling into the same trap as before. doing things that bring you joy in life is morally good, increasing your own happiness is morally good, depriving yourself of pleasure and rest does not make you virtuous. all of these things are true and would be true even if they had absolutely no impact on your health, mental or physical. not every instance of you doing something you like needs to be called "self care", sometimes that's just being a human and enjoying life.

  10. I was really into Huberman's Podcasts for a while, even though a lot of his recommended protocols seemed too thinly supported and too laborious to try.

    In my experience, his best recommendation is to get sunlight in your eyes in the morning, it might be all placebo but it really makes me feel awake and it's also just nice to be outside and smell fresh air.

  11. Thanks for the video. I’m not sure I understand your points around mask wearing. Do you believe that masks (excluding N95) have no impact on the spread of Covid, or is it that their impact is probably not high enough to justify mandatory usage?

  12. Just to boil it down, as far as I go it. Our body and all the interactions of all the different fields of science within are so incredibly complex so it's unreasonable to think that understanding small part of them will lead to predicting the result of the treatment without going through proper clinical trials.

  13. In switzerland,if you go to a pharmacy and ask for something for whatever problem the pharmacist will commonly recommend homeopathy bs. You almost have to go in knowing exactly what you want/need. Its frustrating sometimes.

  14. Whilst generally I’m inclined to agree that these things are bogus.
    My dad suffered extreme headaches and migraines near constantly for years, and he has every scan, every test, Botox pain medication. Nothing helped!
    It wasn’t until after several years of trying the standard methods he decided to go to a chiropractor as a last hail mary – his headaches were resolved. He goes back every couple of months and it has been the only thing to consistently help him feel better. How can this be?

  15. The skeleton in the bg is completely unrealistic☝️ Not only is the trochanter minor way to big but the hip doesn't have the right amount of teeth. Unbelievable…

  16. I've studied both psychology, medicine and have a biotech degree. Still, there have been instances where I felt science hadn't gotten things quite right. Sometimes it was that I felt that an explanation didn't make sense. Sometimes I could guess how things would play out in my field in the future. Sometimes I've called out "science" that was not very scientific (sometimes pointless research can go on for DECADES)

    And still, some things I don't quite understand. One case is homeopathic stuff. I suddenly had a stuffy nose all the time and did an allergy test (prick test, at a legitimate doctor's office). It showed I reacted very strongly to most animal fur. The doctor told me that that sucks, but since it's not a strong allergy, I really need to consider whether I wanted to take vaccines against it, as it came with side effects. She also mentioned there wete now some homeopathic pills… thwy seemed to work, but she has no clue why. She asked me: do I know what homeopathic pills are. I said I do – they're pills with basically not a drop of active ingredient, and if there's an effect, it's a placebo effect. She said that they are likely to be a total waste of money, but they're also very cheap. I said I can try, just because they really ARE very cheap. Used them for half a year, and allergies were no longer detectable.

    I wish I could explain it. Like: was the first allergy test wrong? Was the second wrong? How does a homeopathic preparation get into a hospital's pharmacy? Why did my nose stop stuffing up (correlation with what?)? I can't see how you can "convince yourself" out of allergies! Is it common for people to have transient immunological reactions??? Did the medication actually have some active components because it's not tightly regulated? The weirdest thing is: I'm not the only person thay has experienced an effect (expressed by people using it, and no, it's not from reviews, but actual people I've met) from this particular homeopathic medication, and it's just so weird… I know there have been studies of microdosing nut protein for allergic chilsren, but if the microdosing atopped, the allergy came back. Why wpuld I be any different? Is there a hospital-wide scam? I would really like an explanation

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