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April 28, 1993

Mother-Infant Bonding: A Scientific Fiction

JAMA. 1993;269(16):2146-2147. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500160116047

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This book uses the issue of maternal-infant bonding to illustrate what is now a truism in the sociology of medicine, but one that cannot be repeated enough: often ideology is more critical than data in both popular and scientific acceptance of certain research findings.

A decade ago Stephen Jay Gould offered a thorough and compelling historical demonstration of this point in The Mismeasure of Man. Diane Eyer's book is a welcome attempt to explore the realworld implications of this academic theory. It is a theory that is also relevant to other areas of medicine, such as the acceptance of "new diseases" or nutritional doctrines. Studies and assertions that correspond to societal prejudices, values, or wishes are accepted as scientific truth even in the absence of valid and reliable evidence.

Eyer, a psychology teacher at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, maintains in this book that widespread acceptance of