Does television reflect the evolution of scientific knowledge? The case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder coverage on French television

Mélanie Bourdaa, Jan Pieter Konsman, Claire Sécail, Tommaso Venturini, Isabelle Veyrat-Masson, Francois Gonon

Biomedical findings mature from uncertain observations to validated facts. Although subsequent studies often refute initial appealing findings, newspapers privilege the latter and often fail to cover refutations. Thus, biomedical knowledge and media reporting may diverge with time. Here we investigated how French television reported on three scientific questions relative to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from 1995 to 2010: i) is ADHD mainly genetic in origin, ii) does methylphenidate treatment decrease the risk of academic underachievement, and iii) are brain imaging techniques able to reveal ADHD in individual patients? Although scientific evidence regarding these questions has evolved during these 16 years, we observed that nine out of ten TV programs broadcast between 2007 and 2010 still expressed only opinions against the current scientific consensuses. The failure of TV programs to reflect the evolution of the scientific knowledge might be related to a biased selection of medical experts.



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