Thursday, March 31, 2022

Alternative-causation arguments effective at sowing doubt

One strategy that manufacturers and employers use to delay the regulation of and liability for harmful substances is to make alternative-causation arguments. Basically, they say that the apparent effects caused by a harmful substance or process are actually the result of something else.

The journal Population Health has an interesting article examining the efficacy of alternative causation arguments on individual uncertainty or false certainty about the risk associated with products.

The upshot is that individuals exposed to industry-generated alternative causation messaging (that downplay the risk of harm) were more likely than a control group to be uncertain or false certain about the harms of certain products. Individuals with lower levels of knowledge about the topic were more likely to be affected.

The suggests that the alternative causation strategy is an effective one. It is one aspect of a well-established playbook of techniques that manufacturers use to avoid or delay regulating hazardous materials.

-- Bob Barnetson

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