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Protecting consumers from fraudulent health claims: A taxonomy of psychological drivers, interventions, barriers, and treatments

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number112790
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/08/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Social Science and Medicine
Number of pages15
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date7/01/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Fraudulent health claims—false or misleading claims used to promote health remedies that are untested, ineffective, and often harmful—cause extensive and persistent harm to consumers. To address this problem, novel interventions are needed that address the underlying cognitive mechanisms that render consumers susceptible to fraudulent health claims. However, there is currently no single framework of relevant psychological insights to design interventions for this purpose. The current review aims to address this gap.

An integrative theoretical review was conducted across several relevant disciplines including criminology; behavioural economics; and cognitive, health, and social psychology.

The current review presents a novel taxonomy that aims to serve as an agenda for future research to systematically design and compare interventions based on empirical evidence. Specifically, this taxonomy identifies (i) the psychological drivers that make consumers susceptible to fraudulent health claims, (ii) the psychological barriers that may prevent successful application of interventions, and (iii) proposes evidence-informed treatments to overcome those barriers.

The resulting framework integrates behavioural insights from several hitherto distinct disciplines and structures promising interventions according to five underlying psychological drivers: Visceral influence, Affect, Nescience, Misinformation, and Norms (VANMaN). The taxonomy presents an integrative and accessible theoretical framework for designing evidence-informed interventions to protect consumers from fraudulent health claims. This review has broad implications for numerous topical issues including the design and evaluation of anti-fraud campaigns, efforts to address the growing problem of health-related misinformation, and for countering the polarisation of politically sensitive health issues.