Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Distrust of power influences choice of medical procedures

01.08.2018

Complementary and alternative medicine benefit from the credence given to conspiracy theories and the associated skepticism towards existing power structures

First World countries have well-developed healthcare systems that employ medical regimens that have been empirically demonstrated to be effective. Despite this, many individuals, also in Germany, prefer to resort to the techniques used in complementary and alternative medicine, even though they may have been expressly warned against these. According to recent research, this may be associated with a potent underlying predisposition to believe in conspiracy theories, a trait known as a conspiracy mentality.


Individuals with a pronounced conspiracy mentality see non-established medical concepts, such as homeopathy, in a much more positive light and tend to use these more frequently.

Image/©: Roland Imhoff

"We have identified a significant correlation," said Pia Lamberty of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "The more pronounced the conspiracy mentality of a person, the more that individual will tend to display a positive attitude towards alternative concepts and reject the use of conventional medical treatments such as vaccination and antibiotic therapy." This factor is something that needs to be taken into account in preventive healthcare and medical intervention programs.

Psychologists consider a so-called conspiracy mentality to be a stable personality characteristic. Individuals with a strong proclivity to believe in conspiracy theories suspect that the world is actually controlled by hidden elites.

This is presumably because these individuals themselves have the feeling that they have little or no control over what happens around them. Interestingly, there are numerous conspiracy theories that relate to the world of medicine, the distrust of vaccines being just one example. It is not a new phenomenon but has been apparent for some time. In the case of vaccination, the two groups of those who repudiate it and those who sanction it are completely at loggerheads.

Medical approaches outside the mainstream are also finding favor in other contexts. Data collected recently shows that almost 26 percent of Europeans employed complementary or alternative medical remedies at least once in a particular 12-month period, whereby the most popular were homeopathic and naturopathic medications. This popularity is all the more puzzling as science has to date not verified that homeopathy, as a case in point, has any detectable therapeutic benefits apart from the placebo effect.

With this in view, Pia Lamberty and Professor Roland Imhoff of JGU's Institute of Psychology have undertaken several studies with the aim of analyzing the connection between belief in conspiracy theories and the preference for alternative forms of medicine. They asked 392 study participants in Germany and 204 in the USA about their attitudes to a total of 37 different forms of treatment, from aromatherapy, Bach flower remedies, hypnosis, and yoga through to the use of antibiotics and blood transfusion.

Among other things, the subjects were required to specify how often they used the treatment in question and how effective they considered it to be. "In Germany, we found there was a clear-cut, remarkably close interdependence between a conspiracy mindset and the tendency to prefer alternative medical treatments," Lamberty pointed out. A similar correlation was identified in the USA, but there it was less well-defined.

Conspiracy mentality influences important decisions relating to health

In two further studies, this result was confirmed. Here it was also demonstrated that the psychological link between a conspiracy mentality seen in terms of a political outlook and a preference for non-conventional medicine was based on a distrust of power structures. "Anything considered to have power and influence, such as the pharmaceutical industry, is treated as being highly dubious by conspiracy theorists," explained Lamberty.

In one of the studies, the participants should decide about the approval of a fictitious herbal drug against anxiety, gastritis, and mild depression. Subjects with a strong conspiracy mentality rated the fictitious drug HTP 530 as more positive and effective if it was developed by a group of patients considered powerless than by a pharmaceutical consortium.

For Pia Lamberty and Roland Imhoff the ramification of this with regard to healthcare is that this generalized distrust of power structures can influence the way that people make decisions regarding their own medical treatments.

"An individual's understanding of his or her illness and choice of treatment may thus depend on ideology-related personality traits much more than on rational considerations," the two authors wrote in their article published in Social Psychology. A conspiracy mentality can thus actually determine what patients believe to be the real cause of their disorder, what they consider to be its initial symptoms and physiological effects, and whom or what they select for their treatment.

However, the two Mainz-based psychologists stress that their results should not be interpreted to mean that, by implication, it is also the case that everyone who uses alternative therapies also believes in conspiracy theories.

After completing her research into the relevance of conspiracy theories to medicine, Pia Lamberty is now writing her dissertation on the subject of the role played by conspiracy theories in radicalization processes. For this purpose, she will be spending a year at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where she will be financed by a Minerva Fellowship.

Images:
http://www.uni-mainz.de/bilder_presse/02_psychologie_verschwoerungs_alternativme...
Individuals with a pronounced conspiracy mentality see non-established medical concepts, such as homeopathy, in a much more positive light and tend to use these more frequently.
Image/©: Roland Imhoff

Link:
https://www.soclegpsy.uni-mainz.de/ – Department of Social and Legal Psychology at the JGU Institute of Psychology

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Pia Lamberty
Social and Legal Psychology
Institute of Psychology
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
55099 Mainz, GERMANY
e-mail: pia.lamberty@uni-mainz.de
https://www.soclegpsy.uni-mainz.de/pia-lamberty-b-sc/

Professor Dr. Roland Imhoff
Social and Legal Psychology
Institute of Psychology
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
55099 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 39-39291
e-mail: roland.imhoff@uni-mainz.de
https://www.soclegpsy.uni-mainz.de/prof-dr-roland-imhoff/

Originalpublikation:

P. Lamberty, R. Imhoff, Powerful Pharma and its Marginalized Alternatives? Effect of Individual Differences in Conspiracy Mentality on Attitudes towards Medical Approaches, Social Psychology, 30 July 2018
DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000347
https://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/10.1027/1864-9335/a000347

Petra Giegerich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Lung images of twins with asthma add to understanding of the disease
06.12.2019 | University of Western Ontario

nachricht Between Arousal and Inhibition
06.12.2019 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Developing a digital twin

University of Texas and MIT researchers create virtual UAVs that can predict vehicle health, enable autonomous decision-making

In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location...

Im Focus: The coldest reaction

With ultracold chemistry, researchers get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction

The coldest chemical reaction in the known universe took place in what appears to be a chaotic mess of lasers. The appearance deceives: Deep within that...

Im Focus: How do scars form? Fascia function as a repository of mobile scar tissue

Abnormal scarring is a serious threat resulting in non-healing chronic wounds or fibrosis. Scars form when fibroblasts, a type of cell of connective tissue, reach wounded skin and deposit plugs of extracellular matrix. Until today, the question about the exact anatomical origin of these fibroblasts has not been answered. In order to find potential ways of influencing the scarring process, the team of Dr. Yuval Rinkevich, Group Leader for Regenerative Biology at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München, aimed to finally find an answer. As it was already known that all scars derive from a fibroblast lineage expressing the Engrailed-1 gene - a lineage not only present in skin, but also in fascia - the researchers intentionally tried to understand whether or not fascia might be the origin of fibroblasts.

Fibroblasts kit - ready to heal wounds

Im Focus: McMaster researcher warns plastic pollution in Great Lakes growing concern to ecosystem

Research from a leading international expert on the health of the Great Lakes suggests that the growing intensity and scale of pollution from plastics poses serious risks to human health and will continue to have profound consequences on the ecosystem.

In an article published this month in the Journal of Waste Resources and Recycling, Gail Krantzberg, a professor in the Booth School of Engineering Practice...

Im Focus: Machine learning microscope adapts lighting to improve diagnosis

Prototype microscope teaches itself the best illumination settings for diagnosing malaria

Engineers at Duke University have developed a microscope that adapts its lighting angles, colors and patterns while teaching itself the optimal...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The Future of Work

03.12.2019 | Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the mystery of carbon on ocean floor

06.12.2019 | Earth Sciences

Chip-based optical sensor detects cancer biomarker in urine

06.12.2019 | Life Sciences

A platform for stable quantum computing, a playground for exotic physics

06.12.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>