The Psychology Behind The Statement ‘Kills 99.9% of Germs’

The Psychology Behind The Statement ‘Kills 99.9% of Germs’

Everyone once in their life has come across the phrase ‘kills 99.9% of germs’, either on a hand sanitiser, hand wash or cleaning detergent.
Many of us would be drawn to buy such products under the presumption of being completely safe from germs and infections. However, if this were true then we would be using hand sanitiser for cleaning our kitchen sinks. This bold claim holds less significance than we think it does.

These sanitizing products do get rid of most germs, however there are many strains and types of bacteria and viruses that are not eliminated. But then why do producers still insist to add this statement onto their products allowing a 0.1% space for liability? For marketing purposes? For customer reassurance? Without a doubt, ‘kills 99.9% of germs’ would make anyone feel safe, even though not fully true. However much we could complain about the statement not being completely true, would anyone buy a sanitiser product that says ‘kills 95% of germs’? No, our psychological states automatically determine for us that a higher number is the better one. It is a funny truth that our minds, even though knowing that the product does not kill everything, will come to believe in and put trust in the product. Being truthful is not always reassuring, even to our own selves.

Furthermore, if tests were run to see the outcomes of bacteria growth after the addition of sanitiser, publishing the results for the public eye would be detrimental for the reputation and the community’s trust in the company. It is here where the ethics of transparency comes to question. Is giving a false sense of safety better for that individual’s health than giving the truth, which runs the risk of them not buying the product and therefore leaving them more vulnerable to infections?

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