It worked for me so now I must tell the world…..
I love what I do in my little corner of science land but in general am a whole lot less excited about testimonial evidence than many of my customers and sometimes that gets me down.
Why can’t I just go ‘yeh, that’s awesome YOU ARE SOOOOOO RIGHT’ when they tell me their stories then tell me ‘you just HAVE to try it’.
Why can’t I click ‘like’ when I see another ‘I always drink this, eat this, rub in this, do this and so should you, it is all you need for beautiful skin. Just look at me for proof” ?
Why can’t I? Because I know how hard it is to set up and manage a meaningful experiment and a personal ‘win’ usually isn’t anywhere close.
This month my daughter has turned our kitchen into a greenhouse as she attempts to find out the optimal dose of plant food for her seedlings for her science experiment.
She has carefully considered all aspects of the trial and has taken steps to ensure that the conditions in each pot are controlled as far as humanly possible:
- Same size, shape and material pots.
- Same amount of soil
- Same batch of soil
- Same water
- Same light and temps
- Same amount of seeds
- Same depth of planting
- Same seed batch
- Planted at the same time.
and so on and so forth.
As you can see in the picture some plants are faring better than others. So far, the results of this test are actually quite surprising for us but I’d not go so far as to say that both my daughter and myself are now experts on the optimal plant nutrition because of this. She is only running ONE experiment even if she does have three pots of seeds for each condition and even if all three at each condition are behaving the same way…..
Three sets of results per condition is much better than one and less confusing than two but not as statistically valid as say 5 or 10 when wanting to measure one variable. Grow 100 seeds per condition and you have yourself a very decent experiment as long as you have maintained control of all other variables…..
In science knowing the limits to what we know and recognising at least some of the things we don’t know (contrary to popular belief you can know at least some of what you don’t know if you try) is an important skill as it helps you to refine your experimental procedure and focus in on the key parts that might make a difference.
Moving back to my clients and their testimonials I am put in a position of feeling a) happy for them that they have found a regimen or product that really does work for them b) feeling frustrated about the hurdle that this presents me in terms of my ability to insert some science into this process and c) slightly angry (if I’m honest) that many of these people then go off into the world with their guru hats on teaching other people how they too can achieve success by doing what they do. My anger isn’t so much directed towards the person but more towards the fact that every time this happens the scientific process moves further and further out of reach as it is less sexy, less convincing, somewhat colder (not as warm and fuzzy as a testimonial) and less valued.
In the world of cosmetics a little bit of personal advocacy isn’t a bad thing. It all adds to the fun, fashion and connectedness of the game and so to say that I am totally against it would be as ridiculous as saying I think it is awesome. After all if people don’t feel good and look better after applying their products what is the point?
Believe it or not personal advocacy, testimonials and results are as exciting for me as they are for you when they are seen as a glimpse of what might be true, of what might be worth further investigation. In that regard I see personal triumphs as little clues that there is something in here to examine more closely and that is what I want to promote.
So, let’s keep showing our own personal before and after shots, keep swapping stories and trading ‘secret recipes’ but let’s recognise the difference between a personal win and a scientific breakthrough and hold off on the fan fairs until we have a bit more evidence after all people are a whole lot harder to control than a bunch of seedlings.
You never know, we might all learn something much more interesting that way……