Promising to make someone smarter is a bold, bold move, and now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking a closer look at “brain games” and their purported benefits. Following a $2 million settlement with Lumos Labs for deceiving “consumers with unfounded claims” in ads (hint: brain-training with games isn’t as well backed-up with scientific evidence as, say, strength training with weights), the FTC seems to be on a bit of a roll with this particular matter. In a statement, the Commission said, “Cognitive training products and claims are of significant interest to the FTC,” so if your company is telling consumers that their brains will directly benefit from your product, you better have some pretty solid proof to back that up.
While you could blame Lumosity’s faux pas on just some over zealous marketing (hey, you gotta move product), the FTC is taking these unsubstantiated claims very seriously. And come to think of it, this is nothing new. Around this time last year, the organization cracked down on Focus Education, a company dealing in “edutainment” software for falsely asserting that some of its brain games (namely Jungle Rangers) could help with attention disorders. Parents everywhere seemed taken by the notion, as the company ultimately made $4.5 million between 2012 and the middle of 2013 on that particular game.
The problem with many of these products and their faulty advertising seems to be their choice of target — more often than not, these cognitive exercises are geared toward either the very young or the very old, with enticing promises of smarter children or delayed dementia. And while it would be wonderful to actually reap these purported benefits, for now, that’s all they are — purported.
Neither the FTC nor the scientific community at large has been satisfied with the “research” many of these companies have presented thus far, and already, the Commission has opened four cases against companies like Lumosity. But don’t despair — maybe one day, all these complaints will result in a brain game that really, really works.