When we look at research in public health fields - those matters relating to lifestyle choices especially - we often see what we suspect is a search for evidence to substantiate an ideologically-predetermined position. So, for example, the ideology decides that standardised packaging would be a way to reduce the uptake of smoking among the young and this is followed by a set of studies that appear to show just how much packaging influences the decisions of young people considering taking up smoking. Except that, when we pull these studies apart, we find that they show nothing beyond the (rather obvious) fact that people prefer attractive, bright colours to drab unattractive colours.
This is "white hat bias" - a term coined by US biostatistician Professor David Allison:
It was Professor Allison and Dr Mark Cope who coined the phrase in relation to obesity research. They defined it as: “bias leading to the distortion of information in the service of what may be perceived to be righteous ends”*
UAB researchers examined ways in which scientists writing new research papers referenced two studies reporting the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on body weight. They found that less than one-third of the papers that cited the beverage studies accurately reported the overall findings, and more than two-thirds exaggerated evidence that reducing sugar-sweetened drink consumption reduced weight or obesity. The UAB researchers also found several examples in breastfeeding studies in which the authors selectively included some data and discarded other research to support the theory that breastfeeding decreases the risk of obesity.