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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Bullshit is in the Mind of the Believer

by Edie Kendel

March 12, 2014

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Donate There is a lot of bullshit being fed to us visually, in print, and in spoken words. Whenever someone wants to sell you an idea or a product, there is likely to be at least some bullshit in the pitch. Some of what you are seeing or hearing will have nothing to do with the product and is there solely to elicit a postive emotion in you. Some information may be related to the idea or product, but actually tells you nothing about it. Some claims are complete and utter bullshit.

Good marketing will focus on a positive image or feeling. You will never see a commercial for perfume that just shows the bottle and describes the subtle mixture of scents. A scene is created in the ad... entangled lovers, determination, triumph. These are all things that a perfume will not provide you with, yet they are things that draw us to it. The seller's intent is to associate positive feelings with the product by merely presenting those feelings while displaying the product. We are naturally drawn to the images and feelings. The truth of it is, wearing a perfume will not give you the confidence of a warrior or bring a lover to you. While we stare at a screen, watching the ad, we're being swept away in some bullshit.

We are all aware of the intent of marketing, yet the power of our natural tendency to make associations still carries more weight than logic dictates for us to dismiss the unrealistic scenarios. We are inclined to form patterns and make assumptions. Marketers and sellers want to appeal to our emotions and beliefs that we already hold. Logical evaluation is something we have to train ourselves to do. We must make a conscious effort to evaluate information in an unbiased fashion.

Technology seems to progress beyond what most of us can comprehend. New information and new technology is constantly being introduced to us. What is new "technology?" What are the constituents of a truly novel scientific development? The word technology varies in meaning from the application of knowledge, method of achieving a task, or specialized aspects of a field. It can compass the physical materials used and techniniques used in manipulating physical materials. It is a word that covers a broad spectrum of ideas and tangible things. As we've moved into the age of data technologies, the reference has become more vague. Vague definitions are a gold for marketing. If you have a word, that sounds like it applies to specific standards of science or application of science, but can be used to mean a variety of things, it can be stamped onto any product without really telling us anything about the product. Here are some examples of products that have jumped on the technology train:

Smart Target Technology - Guthy-Renker LLC (Proactiv facial cleanser)

Microclear Technology - Neutrogena Corporation (facial cleanser)

Aura-Inside Technology - Lancme (cosmetic products)

Lypo-Spheric Technology - LivOn Laboratories, Inc. (dietary supplements)

There something very obvious in all of these "technologies" listed above. They have a trademark symbol (TM) or (R.) The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as, "generally a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distiguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others." Simply put, these phrases have been branded onto the product. They are phrases that are associated with the product, but tell nothing about the mechanism by which the products works. Any business can craft a phrase, that makes it seem as though there is a new type of science involved in their goods, when they've merely stamped clever words onto their product. As consumers, we can disregard these phrases as giving any validy to the product's effectiveness.

There are other commonly used words that are used to make something seem innovative. "Revolutionary" and "breakthrough formula" are meant to lead us to believe that something new has been discovered and added to the product. Often they are used in association with a natural substance. Thea Skincare boasts of "a revolutionary new skincare range" that uses "a blend of natural fruit enzymes." This is supposed appeal to the idea that there are untapped resources in nature because we largely depend on synthetic products. Many times, a doctor will be pictured in the advertisement to give it a stamp of legitimacy. There may indeed be plant derivatives that have unique properties that we can incorporate into body lotions and facial creams. They aren't going to be found by a dermatologist on safari in a jungle. There are scientists around the globe who devote their lives to studying plants and the chemical processes they use, such as botanists and biochemists. If a natural substance is found to have a novel property, there will be much research into the practical applications of the substance before it would end up in consumer products. There would be plenty of research documented and published on its chemical structure, the way the plants manufacturers and utilizes it, and how it works on things other than the plant itself. These will not guarded secrets that only one manufacturer became aware of and capitalized on.

So, how do we wade through some of this bullshit and decide if a product is likely to be effective and that it will be safe for use? If it what is being described in the ad is not easily apparent, there is a good chance it's nonsense. If you've never heard of the phrase or specific words, which should tell you what the product is, most likely it was made up for the branding. If you have heard of the specifics that are mentioned, but don't know that they work as described, do a little research. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips to combat the bullshit around us.

by Edie Kendel

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