Cognitive bias and the politics of health care


Prof. Carsten Jensen, University of Aarhus (Denmark)


Citizens' social policy opinions are strongly influenced by a simple heuristic: Are the recipients of social benefits deserving or not? Adding to this growing literature, we provide strong evidence that the deservingness heuristic does not treat all social benefits alike. Already at the level of preconscious processing, the heuristic displays a bias towards tagging recipients of health care benefits—i.e., sick individuals—as deserving. This powerful, implicit effect overrides other opinion factors and produce broad-based support among the public for health care—across levels of self-interest, media frames, ideological divides, and national cultures. In contrast, when the deservingness heuristic is utilized for reasoning about unemployment benefits, implicit psychological constraints are fewer and political conflict erupts depending on differences in interest and worldviews. Using a variety of methodologies, we track this fundamental difference between health care and unemployment benefits from the level of implicit processing to the development of social policies.

International Seminar


International seminar


European Centre