False Advertising (With Statistics) Works

Recent advertising research shows how numerical specifications drastically influence our choices: even if they’re meaningless and contradict our personal experience. Bigger numbers, it seems, are what we want: no matter how abstract or inane.

The first test involved megapixels. The authors took a single image, and used Photoshop to create a sharper version, and one with more vivid colors; they told the students that the two versions came from different cameras. When told nothing about the cameras, about 25 percent of the students chose the one that had made the sharper image. But providing a specification reversed that. When told that the other model captured more pixels […] more than half now picked it.

As Mind Hacks states, “the researchers thought this might be a problem with the fact that not everyone is technically minded, so they tried various other experiments with everything from scented oil to ice-cream – all with the same effect.”