I’m currently reading a book called The Cure for Everything by Tim Caulfield. He brought a concept to my attention called “the information deficit model.” According to Wikipedia, the information deficit model:
“…is the idea that public uncertainty and skepticism towards modern science…is caused primarily by a lack of sufficient knowledge about…relevant subjects. The second aspect relates to the idea that by providing the adequate information to overcome this lack of knowledge, also known as a ‘knowledge deficit’, the general public opinion will change and decide that the information provided on the environment and science as a whole is reliable and accurate.”
In a nutshell, the information deficit model claims that a specific problem is caused by lack of information or knowledge and if we can present more information or the right information or present it in the right way, people will understand and see the problem differently.
According to the information deficit model, we should be able to solve tough scientific problems with great educational campaigns. Let’s take obesity as an example. Our country has an increasing problem with obesity. But with increasing education about eating right and increasing exercise, we should be able to solve the problem, right? Mmmm…not so much.
Here’s the deal. The information deficit model works in a perfect world. If every human being made choices from a completely rational point of view, we could solve our problems by educating the public alone. We humans aren’t so great at that. In fact, we humans have physical and emotional drives that are just plain illogical. I can decide that I’m going to eat only healthy vegetables in small quantities when I’m having a good day, but it’s tough to turn down a donut when it’s sitting in front of me.
Furthermore, humans have an amazing capacity to justify our choices simply by believing “it won’t happen to me.” Everyone knows that smoking greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. Our government along with private interest groups have spent millions of dollars to educate people about the health risks of smoking. We all know that it’s terrible for our health. So why doesn’t everyone stop? Because just knowing something isn’t enough.
Most of what I talk about on this website pertains to preventing tooth decay. I’ve written posts on how to take care of your teeth, avoiding pop, using xylitol to prevent tooth decay, etc. I’m interested in educating the public about causes of tooth decay and how to prevent it. I won’t stop writing about it, either. But I understand that it’s not going to make a dent in how much tooth decay people get. It’s just too easy for an individual to think, “yeah, drinking pop can cause cavities, but it won’t happen to me…” Sometimes it just has to become a problem before the message gets from a person’s head to their heart. Having an abscessed tooth has been known to make a chronic pop drinker a convert to water!
It’s time for a gut check. Do you have habits that you know are harming your health in some way but maybe you’re having a hard time believing the consequences can happen to you? I know I do. I’ve been taking a good hard look at them. It’s not pretty and it’s not very fun. But I owe it to myself and my family to make some changes and I’m trying.
How about you?
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