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Is it still working? Task difficulty promotes a rapid wear-off bias in judgments of pharmacological products


Journal of Consumer Research



Authors / Editors

Ilyuk;Veronika;Block L;Faro D


Publication Year



Misuse of pharmacological products is a major public health concern.Seven studies provide evidence of a rapid wear-off bias in judgments of pharmacological products: consumers infer that duration of product efficacy is dependent on concurrent task difficulty, such that relatively more difficult tasks lead to faster product wear-off. This bias appears to be grounded in consumers’ incorrect application of a mental model about substance wear-off based on their experiences with, and beliefs about, various physical and biological phenomena. Results indicate that the rapid wear-off bias affects consumption frequency and may thus contribute to overdosing of widely available pharmacological products. Further, manufacturers’ intake instructions in an interval format (e.g., “Take one pill every 2–4 hours”) are shown to signal that efficacy is task dependent and reinforce the bias. Debiasing mechanisms—interventions to reduce the rapid wear-off bias and its impact—along with implications for consumers, marketers, and public health officials, are discussed.

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