3. There's too much conflicting information
True. The low-carb diet world is full of people suggesting the artificial stuff as sugar alternatives. It certainly doesn't help that certain doctors in the media, no doubt practising paid shillery more than actual medicine, are out there telling everyone that the damage caused by artificial sweeteners is "exaggerated", or worse yet, "a myth
". You'll notice in that link that Dr. Keri Peterson says these "myths" have never been shown in human
studies. They have, however, been shown beyond a shadow of doubt in animal studies, but instead of enacting the precautionary principle, these authorities on health would rather see you continue to take part in the mass human experiment, while lining their pockets along the way.
But since we established in #1 that people must, at the very least, realize there's some controversy around the subject, wouldn't they want to look into it a little bit? I mean, Dr. Oz is a genius and all (*cough*), but wouldn't it be worth your while to do a little research on the subject? Maybe getting a second opinion would be wise, if not actually digging into Pub Med
So in all likelihood, people know about it and, provided they care, should at least be inclined to investigate, given all the conflicting information. Then what is it that leaves people comfortable in their choice to poison themselves and their families, often with the smug satisfaction that they know they're doing the right thing for their health?
4. People believe their authority figures beyond the point that it's reasonable to do so
Bingo. People continue in this behaviour because the perceived authorities on the subject have not deemed it necessary to stop doing so. It sounds kinda silly when put that way, but think about the excuses you hear: "If this stuff was harmful, it wouldn't be on the grocery store shelf" or "There are people who test for this kind of stuff" or "If it was bad, no one would eat it and the companies would stop producing it." It's basically the ingrained belief that someone out there is looking out for us in some fashion (or that 'the market' will not support products that are actually harmful).
Now I realise that many reading this will not be the types to rely on some little-understood agency to determine what's safe and what isn't. Nothing scares me more than the idea of giving up my free will to some board of executives somewhere who are playing Russian roulette with my health because they've determined that pulling a product off shelves will cost more than the lawsuits from the damages. When it comes to my health, I am 100% proactive in finding out how what I eat is going to affect me. I'll not be relying on the gubmint
for this particular point, thank you very much.
But there is a segment of the population who will follow the rule of 'Authority', or just perceived authority, even when it becomes obvious that this authority doesn't have their best interests at heart. This segment is what Bob Altemeyer called 'The Authoritarians
', also referred to as Authoritarian Followers, who hold the unfortunate characteristic of blindly believing official authority. From Bob:
They [Authoritarians] are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority, and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason, and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use lots of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times, and are often hypocrites. But they are also Teflon-coated when it comes to guilt. They are blind to themselves, ethnocentric and prejudiced, and as close-minded as they are narrow-minded.
I think we all know people like this. I have an aunt who gets very upset whenever someone expresses an opinion that falls outside of right-leaning political ideology. Bob has found from his extensive studies on the subject that the authoritarian follower contingent makes up roughly 50% of the population.
And it's not just people who aren't that smart or fall in with right-wing authoritarian groups. Authoritarian followers can be quite intelligent, of any political ideology or lack thereof; same goes for religion, race or socioeconomic status. They just happen to succumb to what is popular over what they evaluate as morally or factually correct based on their own psychology. To them, what is morally or factually correct is what has been deemed so by the authorities.
You can see its effects in multiple fields, including science, academia, nutrition, government policy, you name it. New approaches or theories, rather than being embraced, explored and evaluated are ignored outright in favour of the status quo. What is unpopular is mocked or ignored.