Cognitive Daily posted some research a couple of days ago about how patients interpret doctors’ statements.

Specifically, that when a doctor says you may possibly develop a condition, the more severe the condition the more you will assume the doctor thinks this condition will develop.

There are, of course, direct implications for medical professionals who want to communicate information, but it’s also a reminder to copywriters and anyone else tasked with communicating information. People process and filter information based on many factors: their own experiences, the context of the communication, their expectations, their opinions and biases about the communicator (or company), etc.

A thorough copywriter will make sure he/she understands who he is communicating to and factor in what kind of filtering of the message is likely to happen.

The research explicitly suggests that qualitative statements are likely to be misinterpreted and that specific numerical statements may therefore be more effective. Yet one more reason to be specific in your marketing message.