Clinically Studied or Clinically Proven? Memory for Claims in Print Advertisements
Dillon H. Murphy, Shawn T. Schwartz, Kylie Alberts, Alexander L. M. Siegel, Brandon J. Carone, Alan D. Castel, and Aimee Drolet
Advertisers often use specifically chosen wording to convey the effectiveness of their product and we investigated memory accuracy for the scientific claims put forth by product advertisements. Participants were shown a cognitive enhancement product advertisement and were tested on their memory for various details. Critically, we were interested in participants’ memory for a phrase describing the product as either “clinically proven” (indicating the product is effective) or “clinically studied” (which is ambiguous). Generally, both younger and older adults demonstrated poor memory for this detail and were more likely to remember the product as having been “proven” to be effective than to have been “studied”. Thus, we demonstrate the fallibility of memory and the potential for reliance on schematic knowledge in the absence of a veridical record of one’s memory for the ad. We suggest that ambiguous efficacy claims be carefully considered by consumers so as not to be misled.