Psychology of Pill Popping
People take pills to overcome depression, to lessen anxiety, even to concentrate better. But they’re less willing to take medications that alter the traits that they consider fundamental to their self-identity. This was the finding of a study conducted by Joseph Simmons, an assistant professor of marketing at Yale SOM, along with Jason Riis of NYU and Geoffrey Goodwin of Princeton, that sought to understand the psychology underlying consumer demand for drugs that can enhance social, emotional, and cognitive traits.
Simmons and his coauthors looked at 19 traits that could plausibly be enhanced by taking a pill. These ranged from cognitive-performance and motor skills such as concentration, memory, math ability, and speed of reflexes to social and emotional traits such as social comfort, self-esteem, empathy, and mood. Study participants rated social and emotional traits as the most self-defining and as the ones that they would be most reluctant to enhance by taking a drug.
Listen to Simmons discuss why people are reluctant to take drugs that alter their core selves. (10:35)