why not to trust google with new research interventions

So like anyone, when I get an ailment, I am straight on google to see how I can help myself feel better and get over the cold/ flu/ pain as quick as possible. However, I gained a bit of insight the other day as to why this may not be the best and most well informed method. Although “why not to trust google with new research interventions” will talk mostly about more severe conditions; it is also true of many day to day illnesses such as a cold or spraining your ankle.

Whilst sat in a lecture the other week a very inspiring thing was said by the lecturer. He mentioned that even if we don’t pursue a clinical/ research psychology career route in intellectual disabilities, he would like us to take one thing away from it. The lecturer said take this knowledge that you learn to help others who are in need of help and give them advice on the best people and places to go. The syndrome my lecturer had a keen interest was:

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood. Signs and symptoms vary between people. Often, symptoms include poor coordination, stiff muscles, weak muscles, and tremors. There may be problems with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing and speaking.

There used to be a well cited, and seemed to work method of moving the infants limbs in a crawling/ walking movement religiously everyday, multiple times as enough was needed to work called Doman Delacato. Everyone would see this working, as using this method, the infant would begin to crawl. However, it was unknown until recently whether this was due to the added movement or whether this would have just normally happened in their development. Doman Delacato began to be searched on the internet extensively and talked about at CP meetings and was increasingly thought that it helped and should be told to health and educational companies. The trouble with this came with research trying to understand the true benefits of Doman Delacato.

Recently researchers in Birmingham tracked infants with cerebal palsy to see whether the use of every day phisio therapy (as the use of Doman Delacato was largely frowned upon) against no movement therapy. It was shown over a matter of years/ cultures and ages that the use of extensive physiotherapy did not help the infants with CP anymore than their natural development.

Therefore, searching on google may not be the best thing to do when trying to speed up/ find new treatment for disorders or small ailments. 9 times out of 10 it is just best to go to the Doctors/ hospitals and trust the treatments that they suggest. Now coming from a background of research I know that there are other places to go to look for help. However there come a lot of issues for a “layman” (person without academic research backgrounds) to rifle through research to find out the best methods for a particular illness or disability.

  • contradictory research and interventions
  • case studies (use of one person which means that the interventions don’t necessarily work for all)
  • ungeneralisable samples (again people that are researched may be in different cultures/ developmental periods/ decades
  • lots of background factors!!! even if the research has big samples, the children/ adults researched may have other conditions/ different genetics/ backgrounds that will all contribute differently to the research

So, when looking at the research be selective with what you take from it! As a general rule of thumb

  1. look at the recent research as even if they are only reviewing the past research they will have current issues at mind and be able to see whether the treatment will really be beneficial.
  2. look at the participants used (do they have similarities to you or not)
  3. look at the countries the research was undertaken in! You’ll be surprised but even subtle differences between your countries can have a HUGE bearing on the research outcome

I hope this is informative and helps those who are google lovers, be able to selectively look at the interventions out there and see what would be the most beneficial treatment needed.


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