The power of habit

Think of a product that you use every day but typically don’t give much thought to.

Let’s call it Product Q.

It’s a staple that has become an absolute necessity and is generally accepted to be a very beneficial product.

You use Q every day without much thought – it’s become part of your daily routine.

It may even be important that you use Q.

Going without Q for too long can have consequences.

(Q can be any everyday-use staple. Examples of Q could be toothpaste, cooking oil, shampoo, moisturizer, medicine, diet soda, socks.)

Company XYX, the makers of Q, recently noticed that a few people have been posting on social media that Q may be responsible for some negative effects.

To get ahead of this news, XYX has decided to talk to the press – as they routinely do – about Q with a statement addressing these negative effects.

What XYX wants to accomplish with this statement is the following:

  1. Dissolve any association customers may have or acquire with Q and the so-called “negative effects.”
  2. Let customers know that XYX has already extensively tested Q in relation to the so-called “negative effects.”
  3. Emphasize the importance of using Q regularly using the standard emotional component.
  4. Assure customers that they are important to XYX, and XYX’s mission to provide products that improve lives.

XYX writes two statements that contain different words but convey the same meaning, because variety adds color to life.

Each statement contains a line stating that Q does not cause negative effects:

From statement 1:

We have not found any evidence to suggest that use of Q has any negative effects.

From statement 2:

In the studies we have done, we have not been able to link use of Q to any negative effects.


What can we conclude from these statements?

We can discover a lot about Q’s association to negative effects by carefully analyzing the statements.

Let’s pick them apart:

In statement 1, XYX tells us that there is no evidence to suggest any negative effects.

  • If you don’t do any studies, you will have no evidence, and you can say with honesty that you have none. XYX does not need to do any studies for this statement to hold true.
  • If there is evidence out there, XYX may not have found it. Or, XYX knows that evidence exists, but has not found it because it decided not to look
  • XYX may have defined negative effects in a way that precludes Q from having any.

In statement 2, XYX tells us that they have done studies, but have not been able to link Q with any negative effects

  • XYX says they have done studies, but we don’t know what type of studies. They might have studied something regarding Q that doesn’t have to do with negative effects. For example, XYX may have studied the heat capacity of Q – it’s still a study.
  • XYX may never have looked for negative effects of Q. Why would you purposefully go looking for something that would hurt sales if true?
  • If XYX did a study that showed Q had negative effects, the study could be nullified in a number of ways: it was done incorrectly; it was done by a fraudulent research team; it was scrapped just before completion; inconsistent data was removed so that the analysis came out clean; a revised study was done with a different control group…
  • XYX may not have been looking for relevant negative effects. For example, XYX may have studied if using Toothpaste Q increased hair loss.

So, does use of Q have any negative effects?

We can’t really tell.

Why can’t we tell?

Because these statements don’t really tell us anything.


Because you already use Q on a daily basis, you don’t need much convincing to continue using Q.

You don’t even think about using it anymore, remember?

Every so often when you’re standing in the aisle of the supermarket, you choose similar product P or R from a different company, but Q is what you mainly use.

You might even be afraid to stop using Q because it keeps that bad thing from happening.


What would make you stop using Q?

If XYX told you that Q has negative effects.

But then again, you can simply switch to P or R because that study only had to do with Q by XYX.

What would make you completely stop using P, Q, R, and all similar products?

If you realized that all of the products don’t work as advertised while causing some negative effects.

But then again, you’ve been using Q all your life, so you may encounter cognitive dissonance.

Would XYX ever want you to stop using Q?

No, That would be bad for business.

XYX employs a small army dedicated to increasing sales of Q. If Q performs poorly, it’ll be cut or re-branded.

If XYX knew that Q was something that you didn’t need, and nothing bad would happen if you stopped using it, would they tell you?

  • Don’t release incriminating information.


What product(s) Q do you use every day out of habit? Tell us in the comments below.


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