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The causal effect of a health treatment on beliefs, stated preferences and memories

Prati, Alberto; Saucet, Charlotte; (2024) The causal effect of a health treatment on beliefs, stated preferences and memories. Journal of Health Economics , 94 , Article 102864. 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2024.102864. Green open access

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The paper estimates the causal effect of a health treatment on patients’ beliefs, preferences and memories about the treatment. It exploits a natural experiment which occurred in the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. UK residents could choose to opt into the vaccination program, but not which vaccine they received. The assignment to a vaccine offered little objective information for learning about its qualities, but triggered strong psychological demand for reassuring beliefs. We surveyed a sample of UK residents about their beliefs on the different COVID-19 vaccines before and after receiving their jab. Before vaccination, individuals exhibit similar prior beliefs and stated preferences about the different vaccines. After vaccination, however, they update their beliefs overly optimistically about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine they received, state that they would have chosen it if they could, and have distorted memories about their past beliefs. These results cannot be explained by conventional experience effects. At the aggregated level, they show that random assignment to a health treatment predicts a polarization of opinions about its quality. At the individual level, these findings provide evidence in line with the predictions of motivated beliefs and over-inference from weak signals in a real-world health setting.

Type: Article
Title: The causal effect of a health treatment on beliefs, stated preferences and memories
Location: Netherlands
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2024.102864
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhealeco.2024.102864
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s), 2024. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Behavioral health economics, COVID-19, Motivated beliefs, Motivated memory, Natural experiment, Over-inference
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10188687
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