By Felicia Stewart, D.C.
It is often discussed, in chiropractic circles, whether or not chiropractic should be defined only by what it is, or if it should also include in any definition those things which it is not. For example, do we say that chiropractic is the location, analysis and correction of vertebral subluxation for the purpose of removing interference to the expression of innate intelligence or do we include what it is not, such as a treatment for headaches or any other ailment?
Derek Muller, PhD, of the YouTube channel Veritasium, presented some interesting insights into education in his doctoral thesis which has relevance to the question above concerning how chiropractors present chiropractic to the general public as well as to those who come to our offices for care. In essence, Dr. Muller was investigating the effectiveness of science videos in educating the general public about concepts in physics. What he found was that when he gave two sample groups a common pretest on physics concepts, their average score was 6/26. He then had one of the sample groups watch one of three expositional science videos which contained most of the answers to the questions on the pretest. This sample group then retook the initial test, the second time scoring an average of only 6.3/26. Yet when asked about the videos they watched, they rated them as clear, concise and easy to understand. They also reported that the video increased their overall confidence in the material. Dr. Muller then had the other sample group watch a dialogue format video which first presented and discussed common misconceptions about physics concepts and then clarified the correct concept. For this sample group, the subjects rated the video they watched as confusing yet their average retest score shot up to 11/26.
In trying to understand why watching the expositional video resulted in only a .3 increase in overall score, he concluded that when presented with videos that only contained the correct information, five observations became evident from post interviews with the participants. One was that participants thought they already knew the material and secondly, as a result of that, they did not pay the utmost attention to the video. Third, they did not recognize that what was presented differed from what they were already thinking leading to fourth, they did not learn from the video. Therefore, his fifth observation was that following the expositional video, participants actually gained more confidence in the incorrect ideas they were thinking before the video.
Part of the suggested reason for this apparent failure of expositional videos to result in learning is based in part in the subject matter. Dr. Muller postulates that presenting information on a subject people know nothing about is fundamentally different from a subject where people have some prior knowledge (or at least think that they do). What Dr. Muller thinks may be happening in cases where viewers have some prior knowledge of a subject is that when they are presented with videos that contain only correct information, they think they already know it and then falsely remember their own ideas as what was presented, serving mainly to reinforce any prior misconceptions they had instead of assimilating new information.
This can be applied to our own profession. The general public and most of the people who present themselves at chiropractic offices for care possess some degree of prior impressions about the nature of chiropractic. Giving them information only without addressing their more deeply rooted misconceptions about chiropractic may leave them less educated than we think they are and prone to share their misconceptions with others they refer for care.
Probably the most important times that the discussions of what vertebral subluxation care is and what it is not, are during the office lay lecture and the everyday “table talk.” Here is where practice members say things which reveal their misconceptions and present a perfect opportunity for the chiropractor to point it out, discuss why it is a misconception and then replace it with a clarified concept. For example, suppose a person presents for care at a typical IFCO chiropractor’s office because s/he thought chiropractors treat headaches. The chiropractor explains chiropractic and the person becomes a practice member who gets checked regularly and appears to understand the overall value of living life subluxation free. They then surprise the chiropractor one day by saying that they have just referred a friend who also has headaches and is therefore clearly a candidate for chiropractic care. While the chiropractor will likely thank them for the referral and proceed to educate the new practice member in what chiropractic is; it is also a perfect opportunity to identify the misconception that chiropractic is for people with headaches and replace it with the clearer understanding that chiropractic is for anyone who is alive and possesses a spine. Ideally, this will lead to the practice member suggesting chiropractic care to everyone they care about.
As a profession then, we have not only a responsibility to educate the public about what chiropractic is, but also to address people’s misconceptions about what it means to live life subluxation free. We are responsible to free them from what holds them back from imagining what could be possible if the whole world had the opportunity to live subluxation free.