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Consumers Prefer “Natural” More for Preventatives Than for Curatives

Sydney E Scott, Paul Rozin and Deborah A Small

Journal of Consumer Research, 2020, vol. 47, issue 3, 454-471

Abstract: We demonstrate that natural products are more strongly preferred when used to prevent a problem than when used to cure a problem (the prevent/cure effect). This organizing principle explains variation in the preference for natural across distinct product categories (e.g., food vs. medicine), within product categories (e.g., between different types of medicines), and for the same product depending on how it is used (to prevent or to cure ailments). The prevent/cure effect is driven by two factors: lay beliefs about product attributes and importance of product attributes. Specifically, (a) consumers hold lay beliefs that natural products are safer and less potent and (b) consumers care more about safety and less about potency when preventing as compared to when curing, which leads to a stronger preference for natural when preventing. Consistent with this explanation, when natural products are described as more risky and more potent, reversing the standard inferences about naturalness, then natural products become more preferred for curing than for preventing. This research sheds light on when the marketing of “natural” is most appealing to consumers.

Keywords: natural products; preference for natural; risk preferences; medical decision-making (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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