169.4 High-flying scholars: An empirical study on the decision-making process of scientists using smart pills to enhance performance

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 3:15 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Sebastian SATTLER , Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
Carsten SAUER , Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
Guido MEHLKOP , Faculty of Economics, Law and Social Sciences, University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany
Peter GRAEFF , Social Sciences Department, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany
Precise question: Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement (CE) – the use of prescription medication to enhance performance without medical necessity – seems to be on the rise. Little is known about the decision process why people take cognitive enhancement medication. In order to fill this research gap, we set up a decision model in accordance with Rational Choice Theory (RCT). In this model, four classical RCT-decision parameters (benefits, cost, probability of success, probability of detection) and the impact of social norms were considered.

Methods/Data: We conducted a web-based survey consisting of a sample of 1,064 randomly drawn scientists of four German universities.

Results: There was clear evidence that scientists would increase their intake of brain doping medication if they expect higher net-benefits of CE use. An increase of internalized norms against CE use decreases the likelihood of consuming CE medication. There were also indications of three different decision-making patterns. One pattern refers to the rational deliberation of utility and normative beliefs separately (no norm-utility interaction). A second pattern is identified for subjects with a strong internalization of social norms against CE use, leading to a discount of potential benefits (negative norm-utility interaction). In the third pattern, subjects show a high probability of CE use when their net-befits were increased by an stronger presence of normative influences against CE use (positive norm utility interaction).

Implications: Results suggest that our theoretical approach for describing the determinants of brain doping is valid. One important insight of our results can be derived from the effects of social norms within the decision to use CE medication. Our results also imply preventive means to cope with negative consequences of cognitive enhancement (e.g. by highlighting side-effects).