Science Fun
Shaping the Truth

Science Standards by State



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When you go to the store to shop for olives or pickles, or when your mother or a friend shops for perfune, they often buy it in a glass container that is shaped to make the contents look biggerh than it really is.  The shape of a container has a lot to do with how much seems to be in it.  The shape of a commercial container often is intended to make what' s in it look bigger or better than it really is.  Containers or their contents sometimes deceive the buyer - by "shaping" the truth!

Try to get an empty (air-filled, because most "empty" containers really are filled with air) container such as an olive bottle.  Replace the air with water, then stick your finter in the bottle and see how it looks.  Stick your finger in the back of the bottle, then in the front of the bottle.  Does it look the same when it's in the back as it does in the front?  If bottlers of olives could pack the olives any way they wanted in the bottle, would they put them in the front or the back?  From what you can see, why would they do that? 

If bottles that contained small objects such as olives or marashino cherries had flat fronts, would their contents look the same, or smaller?  Bottles often are made so that the contents look bigger than they really are.  The makers of bottles can fool the buyer just by the shape of the bottle!

Sometimes bottles are given a fancy or artistic look to give the contents a more appealing look.  Bottles of perfume are sometimes made larger at the bottom than at the top, then packaged in pretty containers that show only the bottom half of the bottle.  Looking at the package of perfume, you think there's more perfume than there really is.  The bottle and the package were both designed to "shape the truth"! 

Often, a package of perfume, as well as the bottle itself, is flattened from front to back so it is wider from side to side than it is from front to back.  Only the front and the bottom half of the bottle show through the package, and the container looks large.  But when the box is opened, the bottle has a distinctive shape.  It is round from side to side, but not very thick from front to back.  Also, the bottle may seem large when it's in the box, but that's because only the bottom half of the bottle shows.  The top is a slender stem that doesn't show in the plastic window in the lower front of the box.  The box and its bottle are designed to "shape the truth"!  It's called "advertising."  And it works!

Cereals often are packaged in boxes that have lots of room in addition to the cereal itself.  One of the reasons may be that with more space, the cereal is less likely to be crushed against the container, and less likely to be crumbled.  If you buy a box of puffed rice or rice crispies, the flakes seem larger than they really are.  One kind of potato chip, which is wavy when baked, is packaged so that one chip fits snugly against its neighbot.  In that way, a whole package of potato chips can be "nested", one tightly against the next, and many more can be put into a box than are packaged loosely in the usual container.  But many people prefer an inflated-with-air bag of chips because that looks like more.

Puffed rice seems rounded or inflated.  It really has a  puffy look, but that is mostly air.  When the pufed rice has ben dripped a few times, or knocked about, and the puffed rice damaged or crushed, it takes up a lot less apce that when it is on the store shelf.  Suppose youw anted to go camping, and had to take dry cereal in your pack.  You wouldn't have much room for puffy foods; they take up too much space.  So you could crush them and put them in a plastic container.   Then they would tast just the same, but they wouldn't look as good as the puffed food.  Deceiving the customer is an important part of merchandizing.

Even foods whose packaging isn't easily understood as deceiving really are.  Some chocolate bars, for example, have the name of the manufacturer pressed into the bar instead of being raised above the bar.  It saves considerable material when hundereds or thousands of bars are considered.  Some bars will even have an indentation that helps to break the bar in two.  But it also saves considerable chocolate!

How many other ways can you find that the buying public is fooled into thinking they are getting more than they really do?  Deceiving the buyeris an important, creative, and profitable way to make moey from a product.  How many other "sneaky" or "profitable" or ingenious and effective ways can you think of to make a product more atractive or to appear more bountiful than it really is?

Another way to deceive the customer is to color the package so the product inside is more attractive.  Coloring things that are in metal cans doesn't pay off the way coloring them in transparent containers does.  Things that are in transparent containers have to look good in order to sell.  Most jellies and jams are in glass or plastic containres, and they have to look good to sell.  Peaches and pears don't lose their color when packed, or if the do, they are given a little artificial color to make them appear normal and tasty.

Manufacturers have to compete with each other to sell their goods.  Some do it by the shape of their containers.  Some do it by the size of their containers.  Some do it by the color they present to the buyer.  If you were going to sell facial tissue, for example, what things would you consider to make it more attractive?  How about the color of the tissue?  How about the size?  How would you fold it?  How would it work to print a puzzle on each tissue?  How about a joke?  In what other ways could you make facial tissue so attractive that people would buy yours instead of others?  It's all part of salesmanship!