Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Here is an excellent article from PBS on the bogus study behind the rumor that millennials are "growing horns" from cell phone use.  It is worth reading the whole thing.  But these are the highlighted flaws in the study:

  1. The study doesn’t actually measure cellphone usage.  It relies on interviews and self-reported usage.
  2. The findings mean nothing for the general population because the sample is biased.  If you haven't been careful about who you are studying and how that specific population represents the general population, you can only draw conclusions about the individuals you studied.
  3. What they measured was a bone spur, not a horn.  A horn is made of keratin.  And even more importantly, they do not really discuss how important the finding is.  Apparently most bone spurs cannot even be felt and many disappear on their own.
  4. Raw data measuring bone spurs on all of the subjects was not provided.  Like so many other imaging studies, reducing complex images to a "score" is hard to do and their methodology needs to be considered.
  5. The study claims males have more of these bone spurs, but doesn’t back it up.
  6. The study also fails to make a clear connection to millennials.

Other than these flaws, however, it was fine science.  (Nod to Mark Twain).

The best part of the article, however, is how the media got this wrong in the first place... and really explains why this is so important.  It's a 5 minute read and highly worthwhile.