Feeling is believing: Evaluative conditioning and the ethics of pharmaceutical advertising

Paul Biegler, Patrick Vargas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A central goal in regulating direct-toconsumer advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals (DTCA) is to ensure that explicit drug claims are truthful. Yet imagery can also alter viewer attitudes, and the degree to which this occurs in DTCA is uncertain. Addressing this data gap, we provide evidence that positive feelings produced by images can promote favourable beliefs about pharmaceuticals. We had participants view a fictitious anti-influenza drug paired with unrelated images that elicited either positive, neutral or negative feelings. Participants who viewed positive images rated the influenza drug as significantly more effective, safe, and beneficial than did participants who viewed negative images. This effect, known as evaluative conditioning, is well described in experimental social psychology but has not previously been shown with pharmaceuticals. We discuss how evaluative conditioning in DTCA may compromise viewer autonomy, and canvass possible regulatory responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Autonomy
  • Behavioural research
  • Drugs and drug industry
  • Health promotion
  • Informed consent

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