Reducing demand for ineffective health remedies: overcoming the illusion of causality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: We tested a novel intervention for reducing demand for ineffective health remedies. The intervention aimed to empower participants to overcome the illusion of causality, which otherwise drives erroneous perceptions regarding remedy efficacy. Design: A laboratory experiment adopted a between-participants design with six conditions that varied the amount of information available to participants (N = 245). The control condition received a basic refutation of multivitamin efficacy, whereas the principal intervention condition received a full contingency table specifying the number of people reporting a benefit vs. no benefit from both the product and placebo, plus an alternate causal explanation for inefficacy over placebo. Main outcome measures: We measured participants’ willingness to pay (WTP) for multivitamin products using two incentivized experimental auctions. General attitudes towards health supplements were assessed as a moderator of WTP. We tested generalisation using ratings of the importance of clinical-trial results for making future health purchases. Results: Our principal intervention significantly reduced participants’ WTP for multivitamins (by 23%) and increased their recognition of the importance of clinical-trial results. Conclusion: We found evidence that communicating a simplified full-contingency table and an alternate causal explanation may help reduce demand for ineffective health remedies by countering the illusion of causality.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology and Health
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Nov 2018

Fingerprint

Causality
Health
Placebos
Clinical Trials
Attitude to Health
Outcome Assessment (Health Care)
Drive
Generalization (Psychology)
Recognition (Psychology)

Cite this

@article{b4cc3c68ec68437989747d36d1b258f5,
title = "Reducing demand for ineffective health remedies: overcoming the illusion of causality",
abstract = "Objective: We tested a novel intervention for reducing demand for ineffective health remedies. The intervention aimed to empower participants to overcome the illusion of causality, which otherwise drives erroneous perceptions regarding remedy efficacy. Design: A laboratory experiment adopted a between-participants design with six conditions that varied the amount of information available to participants (N = 245). The control condition received a basic refutation of multivitamin efficacy, whereas the principal intervention condition received a full contingency table specifying the number of people reporting a benefit vs. no benefit from both the product and placebo, plus an alternate causal explanation for inefficacy over placebo. Main outcome measures: We measured participants’ willingness to pay (WTP) for multivitamin products using two incentivized experimental auctions. General attitudes towards health supplements were assessed as a moderator of WTP. We tested generalisation using ratings of the importance of clinical-trial results for making future health purchases. Results: Our principal intervention significantly reduced participants’ WTP for multivitamins (by 23{\%}) and increased their recognition of the importance of clinical-trial results. Conclusion: We found evidence that communicating a simplified full-contingency table and an alternate causal explanation may help reduce demand for ineffective health remedies by countering the illusion of causality.",
keywords = "behaviour change, consumer behaviour, demand reduction, health education, Illusion of causality, intervention",
author = "Douglas MacFarlane and Hurlstone, {Mark J.} and Ecker, {Ullrich K.H.}",
year = "2018",
month = "11",
day = "15",
doi = "10.1080/08870446.2018.1508685",
language = "English",
journal = "Psychology and Health",
issn = "0887-0446",
publisher = "Taylor & Francis",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Reducing demand for ineffective health remedies

T2 - overcoming the illusion of causality

AU - MacFarlane, Douglas

AU - Hurlstone, Mark J.

AU - Ecker, Ullrich K.H.

PY - 2018/11/15

Y1 - 2018/11/15

N2 - Objective: We tested a novel intervention for reducing demand for ineffective health remedies. The intervention aimed to empower participants to overcome the illusion of causality, which otherwise drives erroneous perceptions regarding remedy efficacy. Design: A laboratory experiment adopted a between-participants design with six conditions that varied the amount of information available to participants (N = 245). The control condition received a basic refutation of multivitamin efficacy, whereas the principal intervention condition received a full contingency table specifying the number of people reporting a benefit vs. no benefit from both the product and placebo, plus an alternate causal explanation for inefficacy over placebo. Main outcome measures: We measured participants’ willingness to pay (WTP) for multivitamin products using two incentivized experimental auctions. General attitudes towards health supplements were assessed as a moderator of WTP. We tested generalisation using ratings of the importance of clinical-trial results for making future health purchases. Results: Our principal intervention significantly reduced participants’ WTP for multivitamins (by 23%) and increased their recognition of the importance of clinical-trial results. Conclusion: We found evidence that communicating a simplified full-contingency table and an alternate causal explanation may help reduce demand for ineffective health remedies by countering the illusion of causality.

AB - Objective: We tested a novel intervention for reducing demand for ineffective health remedies. The intervention aimed to empower participants to overcome the illusion of causality, which otherwise drives erroneous perceptions regarding remedy efficacy. Design: A laboratory experiment adopted a between-participants design with six conditions that varied the amount of information available to participants (N = 245). The control condition received a basic refutation of multivitamin efficacy, whereas the principal intervention condition received a full contingency table specifying the number of people reporting a benefit vs. no benefit from both the product and placebo, plus an alternate causal explanation for inefficacy over placebo. Main outcome measures: We measured participants’ willingness to pay (WTP) for multivitamin products using two incentivized experimental auctions. General attitudes towards health supplements were assessed as a moderator of WTP. We tested generalisation using ratings of the importance of clinical-trial results for making future health purchases. Results: Our principal intervention significantly reduced participants’ WTP for multivitamins (by 23%) and increased their recognition of the importance of clinical-trial results. Conclusion: We found evidence that communicating a simplified full-contingency table and an alternate causal explanation may help reduce demand for ineffective health remedies by countering the illusion of causality.

KW - behaviour change

KW - consumer behaviour

KW - demand reduction

KW - health education

KW - Illusion of causality

KW - intervention

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85057295528&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1080/08870446.2018.1508685

DO - 10.1080/08870446.2018.1508685

M3 - Article

JO - Psychology and Health

JF - Psychology and Health

SN - 0887-0446

ER -