The bald truth about fries

We’ve been chuckling at this story in the New Scientist. Some journalists (and a large number of optimistic balding people) have misinterpreted a piece of Japanese research, which seemed to suggest eating fries could cure baldness. Spoiler alert: it can’t.

But, from a nudge perspective, we can totally see why this story took off. After all, it’s got a great nudge double act going on.

Nudge one: credible source

This story’s come from research, real research. And if someone in a white coat tells us to do something, we’re more likely to do it. The fact newspapers picked up the story too only adds to its credibility. 

Nudge two: confirmation bias

Let’s face it, we want to believe a story like this is true. If, like us, you already enjoy eating fries, you’ll naturally be drawn to a story that gives you even more reasons to keep tucking in. We’re pretty sure that’s why headlines about the health benefits of red wine and chocolate do so well, too.

So, how do we get the balding public to stop eating fries in the face of such compelling nudges? Well, the scientists behind the study are now actively urging people to lay off the chips – giving it a credible source again. They could go further, with some traditional healthcare ‘interventions’ – namely reminding people of the downsides of eating too many fries. In a society that still judges people on physical appearance, you don’t want to be fat and bald. But beyond that, this is going to be a tough habit to break, unless researchers find a genuine alternative.

As soon as we’ve got a food drink or medicine that really can cure baldness, people will drop those fries like the hot potatoes they are.

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