Thursday, July 17, 2014

Persuasion and Placebos

Within the two pages of the book, Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, I immediately thought of a lecture I was given in Elizabeth Shobe’s Intro to Psychology course last term. During that lecture, Liz explained the significance of advertising and persuasion; she emphasized that most advertisements shown on TV are an exaggeration, sometimes even entirely unreliable. When the product that is being advertised receives reviews throughout the commercial, each person who speaks is a stranger to the audience. Liz stated, and I quote, “For all we know, those people proclaiming their dire need for the new ShamWOW! could be family of the inventor.” After reflecting on this lecture, I have realized she was right. We don’t know those people who are reviewing the product, and we certainly don’t know if they have any relation or ties to the people selling the product. On Pg. 4 of Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, it reads, “Notice that the pseudoscientific approach did not involve systematic empiricism; in other words, the pseudoscientist did not conduct a study that was carefully planned to rule out alternative explanations for the improvement in patients’ symptoms. We do not know for sure whether the people who tried the herbal remedy were clinically depressed before taking the remedy…” This particular excerpt is referring to a pseudoscientist who delivered an herbal remedy spoken to relieve the symptoms of depression. The author, Timothy Lawson, has a very good point in relation to Liz’s lecture. Not only  are we unfamiliar with the reliability of a testimonial, but we also cannot prove how that testimonial came to be. Was the product actually helpful, or was the sudden improvement just an act of subconscious will power from an ineffective placebo?

Refer to the book: Page 4, Chapter 1. 

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with where you are coming from on this post. I have always been skeptical about paid programming and advertisements because of the testimonials. For too many commercials, it needs to be specified that the person giving the testimonial is "not an actor." That is such a vague statement to make! So what if they aren't an actor? Just because they say this does not automatically make them an "average" person with no tie to the product. It also doesn't rule out if they actually suffered from the problem the product is supposed to fix. After reading this book, I have started to notice more and more pseudoscientific practices in advertising.