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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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  • #60092
    Monica Gerhardt

    Please provide feedback for Sticking to alternative medicine: the role of psycho-immunology

    #60268
    Adina Robinson

    Very interesting research! How did you measure BPI and what was the distribution of participants for this variable?

    #60299
    Mesay menebo

    Thank you Adina:)
    The development of a reliable and valid measure of BPI is part-1 of this PhD project.
    The BPI measure(which we systematically developed) is a 20 items scale tapping how strongly or weakly participants believe their emotional and thought components affect their illness recovery(Scale paper is coming soon as a journal article). The theoretical concept of BPI is first elaborated by Professor Thomas Gilovich. We based on that theoretical concept to develop the measure.
    Out of the 20 items , we estimate a composite continous score ranging from 0(low BPI) to 1(High BPI).Regardless of participants educational background, sex and age-BPI is fairly normaly distributed among the sample. In addition, it is highly correlated with religousity. As a continuation of the scale development, we also made few experiments to check whether it could be possible to manipulate BPI by priming it. That was successful too.

    Thanks 🙂

    #60524
    Rebecca Reczek

    I wonder what role the type of ailment plays in these effects. Are people perhaps more likely to use these types of remedies (even in the face of failure) when faced with an incurable disease? I expect this might be the case, as doing so might give them an illusion of control over the outcome of their illness (which they may not actually be able to control). I think this is a really interesting project and think you could explore any number of interesting moderators. I would also think about the role that illusion of control might play here. It may be an alternative explanation to rule out (since you’re seeing failures attributed to the self, it may not be going on, but it would be interesting to test.

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