The other day I was watching this awesome 5-hour Energy commercial where this lady was sitting next to a very official looking stack of papers while enlightening us, viewers, on just how exceptional 5-hour Energy is. Here’s what she said:
“We asked over 3,000 doctors to review 5-hour Energy and what they said is amazing. Over 73 percent who reviewed 5-hour Energy said they would recommend a low-calorie supplement to their healthy patients who use energy supplements. Seventy-three percent.”
Okay…what? First of all, I think that the word ‘amazing’ was a bit inappropriate. Secondly, it sounds like the only real discovery here is that doctors recommend that if you are healthy, and going to take an energy supplement, it should at least be low-calorie. The best part of this statistic is that nowhere in her statement does she say that those doctors recommended 5-hour Energy itself, just a low-calorie energy supplement. For all we know, they asked 3,000 doctors about 5-hour Energy, they said it will kill anyone who drinks it over time, then when asked about energy supplements, 73% decided, “Not great, but low-cal is probably best.”
The reason I am now thinking about this blatant display of advertising gimmicks, is because just yesterday at Meijer’s, two girls in front of me were contemplating buying the 5-hour Energy that is so conveniently located at check-out. Finally, one of them decided, “Why not, I’m pretty sure doctors recommend it or something.”
My first reaction was to say “Oh…no, honey…no.” But then I decided maybe there was something other than ditsiness that could explain why she chose to believe this. As it turns out, I was right.
One of the few things I remember from my statistics course is that there are two errors we try to avoid: Type 1 and Type 2 errors, one being accepting a falsehood and two being rejecting a truth. Because most people generally do not live their lives in a constant state of paranoia and skepticism, it would be reasonable to assume that we automatically make more Type 1 errors when processing incoming information. French philosopher, René Descartes, believed the reason for our gullible nature was due to the fact that there are two steps when absorbing information– understanding and believing. First, we have to listen to what we are told, process it, and then take the extra step to decide if we believe it or not. However, sometimes we do not take the time to consider the information at hand, halting our rational, and leading us to naturally accept said information.
Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert conducted extensive research on the basis of Descartes’ theory. He reasoned that if Descartes is correct, then if people are distracted while being told information, this would naturally interfere with accepting true statements and rejecting false statements. His results proved that we are, in fact, more likely to incorrectly assess information with “cognitive busyness.”
Unfortunately, advertisers are very aware of this fact, and thus do a very impressive job of distracting consumers while trying to sell their product. So even though this 5-hour Energy commercial was much more obvious in their scheming than most other ads, I am still going to give that poor girl from the check-out line a break because apparently, we all naturally want to believe everything we hear.
By: Lauren Opatowski
(Photo by Mr. T in DC under a Creative Commons license)