No, a Rat Study Can’t Tell Us About Human Bromance

Even here, she’s joking about rat “bromances.” She isn’t really making any claims about human behavior, other than mild ones we already know — humans comfort each other and physical contact is good. Either way, the broader problem is the headline; UC-Berkeley knew “bros” are having a cultural moment and decided, science be damned, that tapping into that moment was the best way to drum up interest in a rat study that might not otherwise get mainstream attention.

I know this sounds curmudgeonly, but it really does translate to really misleading coverage. Maybe the worst offender, at least among the small samples of articles I looked at, was Uproxx, which wrote: “According to new research[8] (soon to be published in Neuropsychopharmacology), close friendships between two males[9]–like those between romantic partners–may actually reduce stress and reduce the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

So we’ve gone from “rats immobilized in the presence of fox odor exhibit less prosocial behavior than those immobilized in the presence of peppermint odor” (my summary, not a direct quote) to the claim that close, physical friendships between males may reduce the effects of PTSD. That’s not good, and it happened because of a misleading press release.

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