Framing effects and the folk psychiatry of addiction


Clinical disorders are multidimensional phenomena that are important to clinicians and the lay public, as well as to cognitive scientists interested in understanding how people conceptualize complex domains. However, little work has examined the factors that influence the folk psychiatry of addiction. Participants in the present study read a paragraph about addiction pitched at either an abstract or personal level, followed by a series of questions about the causes and treatment of drug addiction. We further manipulated whether addiction was described using a medical or psychological label. Results revealed that liberals and conservatives varied with respect to their folk psychiatric reasoning, with liberals preferring a biological/medical view, which is associated increased support for medical interventions and reduced feelings of personal responsibility. Framing addiction using medical labels and at an abstract level pushed people towards this biological view, suggesting that media reports and messaging campaigns may influence how people conceptualize addiction.

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