3

Let's say I were an advertiser trying to come up with a scientific way to back my gum company's "9 out of 10 doctors recommend xyz gum" claim. Do I need to ask exactly 10 doctors and hope that exactly one of them says they don't recommend it?

Can I ask 100 doctors, find one that doesn't recommend it, then choose 9 other doctors that did recommend it for my statistic, ignoring the other 90 doctors that all also recommended it? Most gum is sold nationwide in the same packaging so let's not assume I'm in any specific state.

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  • It's even easier. You just ask ten people with pHds in Tobbaconology from the University of Phillip-Morris and pay off one of them to recommend Winston. Aug 13 '18 at 17:10
  • Wouldnt it be preferrable to claim 99 out of 100 doctors say ___ rather than only 9 out of 10 if you have data that supports the former? Are you asking if it is legal to manipulate data to make you look worse than the data suggests?
    – Matt
    Aug 13 '18 at 17:47
  • Who says they have to be medical doctors? Round up some guys with doctorates in education and you can create the false appearance of authority for just about any claim.
    – EvilSnack
    Nov 7 '20 at 21:12
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The original add to make this claim was Trident Sugarless Gum, which basically shopped for dentists to make the claim and stopped when they had four who agreed, and one who didn't. And in fact even then, it was still playing with the exact meaning.

The original quote is "Four out of Five Dentists recommend Trident Sugarless Gum to their patients who chew gum." They left out some critical information. First, that the question the doctors were asked was "would you recommend this product if the patient insists on chewing gum?" That insistent patient changed their answer fundamentally... as they would have joined Doctor Number 5, who recommended never chewing gum, even if Trident Sugarless Gum was the least unhealthy gum too chew... cause if the patient is going to to take a full recommendation on gum chewing, any dentist worth their salt would recommend you not chew gum.

This appeared in the mid to late 1950s and America instantly realized that 4 dentists out of five who answered a poorly phrased question badly does not speak for the bulk of Dentists who saw the answer for what it is. By 1960, at least one Variety Show parodied the commercial by making a gag commercial for a Chinese Restaurant that insisted that "9 out of 10 doctors recommend eating Chinese food." Cue the Camera focusing on 9 happy looking Chinese doctors and one scowling White Doctor as their panel.

As a final note and because I'd be re-missed not putting this in here, 9 out of 10 Doctors insist the 4th Doctor's scarf was way too long.

1
  • +1 for the last line!
    – Dakkaron
    Sep 1 at 18:19

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