Deceptive Advertising: Behavioral Study of a Legal Concept

Deceptive Advertising: Behavioral Study of a Legal Concept

Deceptive Advertising: Behavioral Study of a Legal Concept

Deceptive Advertising: Behavioral Study of a Legal Concept


This is the first book designed to assist behavioral scientists in the preparation of scholarly or applied research regarding deceptive advertising which will ultimately affect public policy in this area. Because there was an inadequate foundation upon which to build a program of research for this topic, a three-part solution has been devised:
1) a review of how deception is viewed and regulated
2) a theory of how consumers process deceptive information
3) a sensitive and consistent means of measuring deceptiveness.

This text provides detailed discussions regarding the intersection of law and behavioral science and its application to deceptive advertising. In so doing, it offers a solid foundation upon which to base expanded behavioral research into how consumers are deceived by advertising claims, and what cognitive processes are involved in that deception.


The elemental concept behind this book was born in 1980. Then a law student, I was asked by one of my former undergraduate professors, Dick Zakia (Rochester Institute of Technology), about the laws regulating deceptive pictures in advertisements. Thinking I could run to the law library and find an article on the topic, to quickly satisfy his curiosity, I promised to look into it. It seemed inconceivable, but there was nothing written on this topic. Even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had paid it little heed. This lack of attention to so important an issue piqued my own curiosity, so I asked Dick, a psychologist and photographic scientist, to help me research the topic.

With Dick's guidance, I began exploring the advertising and psychology literatures, again certain that volumes must have been written about the effects, on consumers, of pictures in advertising. After exhaustive research I was once again astonished to find nothing written in book or journal, despite the copious use of visual communication techniques in advertising.

The culmination of this project, nearly a year later, was my first law journal article, with Dick as my co-author. Our primary conclusions were that pictures could and should be given more attention by federal regulators, and that there was a need to integrate into the regulatory process more extensive use of psychological theory and methods to study the deceptiveness of pictures. One tool we then suggested, from exploring this area, was Osgood's semantic differential . . . an idea that finally bears some fruit in this book.

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