Barking Up The Wrong Tree

“The Data Says ‘Don't Hug the Dog!’ ” 

That was the headline on a Psychology Today article that's getting a ton of coverage in the press.

Should you believe it? Not exactly. Because the "data" was simply based on observations of 250 pictures of dogs—a fact that raises a lot of questions. For example: 

  • What breeds of dogs were studied?
  • Were they representative of all dogs?
  • Where did the photos come from?
  • Are people who post pictures of their dogs different than people who don't?
  • Is 250 dogs a large enough sample size?

Fortunately, the Washington Post and other media outlets have pointed out some of the flaws with the study. And, to be fair, much of the hype around this study appears to have come from the media outlets themselves; the author of the piece never claimed that it was a peer-reviewed study - only that he was collecting some data.

If there's one thing you'll learn from our book, it's to question where the data comes from. Should you hug your dog? Maybe, maybe not - but you should probably look for more scientific-based data if you want to make the right decision.