Ever feel a rush of excitement as you come across a headline promising your favorite indulgence is a secret health food? Perhaps it was Huffington Post luring you in with promises that “Giving In To That Chocolate Craving Can Benefit Your Health” or maybe out was The Telegraph advising you “Chocolate: 10 health reasons you should eat more of it.” Neither headline clarifies that it’s cacao with the boons, and that adding milk, sugar, and butter to it reduces the overall healthfulness of the treat.
If you’re not a chocolate lover, maybe it’s headlines about beer and wine that appeal to you. Men’s Health offers “10 Reasons to Have a Beer Right Now”, while the health magazine Prevention provides ” 8 Reasons To Love Red Wine.” These add usually presented as reasons to start drinking if you don’t already. They’re designed to reassure drinkers that it’s a good life choice.
Many of these headlines go beyond matters of food and drink. Some focus on body parts, like the news site First To Know’s grammatically baffling headline “Big Butts Means Big Brain, According to Science”. (Don’t most people have a 1:1 butt to brain ratio?)
Other confirmation bias satisfying headlines tell us our struggles just prove we are geniuses. LifeHack proposes ” 10 Reasons Night Owls Are Smarter People” and also has “12 Reasons Why Disorganized People Are More Intelligent.” Like a horoscope these headlines assure us that we can control our lives, and that we’re already doing so. If you’re already staying up late in a messy room, living off chocolate and beer, clearly you’re a brilliant picture of health.
We want to believe both, that we are masters of our destiny and that said mastery won’t mean a lot of hard work. Our big butts and disorganized homes aren’t flaws; they’re evidence of our intellectual greatness. Chocolate isn’t a dessert, it’s part of a health regime. Alcohol isn’t a legal and socially accepted drug, it’s preventing cancer. The psychological reward of these headlines is immediate, with zero homework required of us. I get why we fall for them. But it’s still funny.