Beliefs and Health Treatment Outcomes

Whether a medical treatment or health care intervention is ultimately successful is determined by many factors. Medical care is embedded in a complex psychosocial environment and elements of that social context (e.g., beliefs about treatment effectiveness, social norms, moods, hope, anxiety about drug side effects) can be critical to the success or failure of health care treatments. In essence, the psychological meaning ascribed to a treatment (called placebo effects) along with the active treatment ingredients serve as two critical components of all medical treatments. The InSPHIRe lab is interested in the social, cognitive, and personality factors that alter treatment effectiveness, with much of our work focusing on treatment beliefs and in patient involvement. In this work, we are asking questions such as:

Does giving patients the opportunity to be involved in selecting their own medical treatment enhance treatment outcomes? If so, why does this occur? If providing choice over treatment options improves treatment efficacy, what are the parameters of this effect? Are there cases in which allowing individuals to be involved in treatment selection hinders patient outcomes?

How do individuals form their beliefs about treatments and interventions (e.g., social comparisons, prior personal experience)? Does the process by which a belief is formed determine how it alters treatment outcomes?

What are the sociocultural factors that influence treatment beliefs? Do sociocultural belief differences help explain health disparities found across socioeconomic and racial groups?

What are the key contextual factors that change treatment outcomes? For example, if we frame a treatment effect differently (e.g., “90% of people experience pain relief from this drug” vs. “10% of people do not experience pain relief from this drug”) will this message framing alter treatment responses?

Finally, we are interested in the use of virtually any theory regarding motivation, social influence, or persuasion to enhance treatment effectiveness.

For a list of relevant citations, click here.