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Sticking to alternative medicine: the role of psycho-immunology

Presented by: Mesay M. Menebo, PhD research fellow, University of South-Eastern Norway

Alternative medicine, like holistic treatment approach, is ‘the promotion or use of practices which are unproven, disproven, impossible to prove, or excessively harmful in relation to their effect — in the attempt to achieve the healing effects of medicine’. A specifically fascinating aspect of the success of holistic medicine is that even the experience of failure of such remedies is often not enough to turn-off users. It seems that consumers of holistic medicine are prone to consider themselves as the cause of failure, not the product. The phenomenon is particularly interesting because it goes against one of the most elementary findings in consumer behavior, namely the tendency for consumers to attribute product use success to themselves, and product use failure exclusively to the product or service. This paper address the question of which psychological reasoning leads to such self-blaming behavior and what are its marketing implications. Specifically in the health domain, we hypothesize that individuals high in psycho-immunology belief tend to self-blame for failures for holistic medicine and therapies. This research contributes to an understanding of how consumers persuade themselves to accept ineffective products, and of one of the drivers of the proliferation of alternative medicine in particular.

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