health-nuttiness is a good heuristic

Posted in Uncategorized by sarkology on April 8, 2011

Some people complain about health conscious people adopting specific non-effective health practices. Since they tend to adopt other health practices which are on average effective, naive studies will show a particular health practice adopted by them to be effective, when in fact it might not be.

Now it might appear that you are doing better than those silly health-nuts. After all based on your careful consideration of the pros and cons of this specific health practice, you have managed to deduce that it is actually neutral or even harmful. But did you ever pause to think that you might have over-invested your research effort on this particular health practice? After all, especially since you are not a health nut, you should not expect to do better on average than a health nut on all the various potential health practices. In fact, paying disproportionate attention to this specific health practice will lead you to neglect others with possibly greater expected impact. And don’t forget, there is a problem with such naive studies in the first place only because health nuts are on average healthier. It doesn’t really matter if they are horrifyingly stupid in regards to some specific health practices. On average they do better than you.

Perhaps you have an emotional investment or special interest in not adopting this health practice. Or perhaps you have an irrational fear of being wrong, whether from potential embarrassment in arguments or potential diseases contracted. Or maybe you simply don’t want to be a health nut.

In any case, health-consciousness is actually a pretty good heuristic, even as it fails in specific cases. You might win in specific cases by doing better than health nuts, but you’d lose on average if you don’t just adopt the health-nut heuristic elsewhere. This is actually very elementary, you don’t throw away the rest of your health practice prior just because you have updated on one portion of it for a specific health practice.


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