First Impressions in the Health Context: The Generalizability of Initial Biases on Sequential Drug Choices
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Previous research has shown that false first impressions can guide subsequent decision making in the form of biased sampling in which people exploit seemingly better alternatives (Harris et al., 2020). The present research tests the hypothesis that pseudocontingency biases towards a certain medicine will be maintained and generalized onto other similar, yet different medicines in a free sampling context. The current research demonstrates that in reward-rich environments, pseudocontingencies between medicine options and health outcomes guide subsequent decision making so that the frequently presented medicine is preferred more than the infrequently presented option. In line with our expectations, people appear to use a strategy of exploitation, however, this was only evident at the beginning of the sampling phase. When providing participants with a virtually identical alternative of the preferred medicine, the previous bias spills over into their sampling of this new medicine. However, explicit preference measures reveal that participants do not prefer this new medicine more than the alternative. The present findings provide evidence that pseudocontingency biases may transfer onto similar alternatives, however, it is still unclear whether this transfer demonstrates generalization. Finally, it cannot be concluded whether the bias towards the new alternative shows a strategy of exploitation or exploration.