Physicians under the Influence: Social Psychology and Industry Marketing Strategies

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 41 (3):665-672 (2013)
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It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.– Leonardo da VinciPhysicians often believe that a conscious commitment to ethical behavior and professionalism will protect them from industry influence. Despite increasing concern over the extent of physician-industry relationships, physicians usually fail to recognize the nature and impact of subconscious and unintentional biases on therapeutic decision-making. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies, however, routinely demonstrate their knowledge of social psychology processes on behavior and apply these principles to their marketing. To illustrate how pharmaceutical marketing strategies use psychological techniques to promote targeted therapies, we draw on the relevant social psychology literature on conflicts of interest and on the six principles of influence articulated by the eminent social psychologist Robert Cialdini. Hospitals, professional organizations, medical educators, and other stakeholders must also draw on social psychology to respond effectively to commercial activities that compromise good medical practice.



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