B-Sci Bite: How do consumers think about natural (vs. synthetic) remedies for treating illness?

Consumers often are faced with choosing between natural and synthetic (a drug artificially manufactured in a laboratory) medications. How do consumers think about each option? Behavioral science research suggests that consumers generally prefer natural to synthetic medications, and that this preference is stronger when the goal is to treat psychological rather physical conditions.  

What explains this pattern? Follow-up research suggests that consumers are more concerned about their “true selves”–who they are at their core–being altered when treating psychological conditions. They perceive natural drugs to be less likely than synthetic drugs to alter their “true selves”; in turn, they prefer natural remedies when treating psychological conditions. 

These findings have implications for how people engage with their health. Possible consequences of consumers’ pro-natural preference include disregarding medical advice, prematurely discontinuing prescriptions, and avoiding help from psychiatrists altogether. To counter this, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies should educate on the safety of medications while positioning them as facilitating one’s authentic self rather than compromising it. 


Questions? Or simply curious? Get in touch! 


James Dunlea, Ph.D. 

Head of Behavioral Science 

[email protected]