Objectives: Attribution of symptoms as medication side effects is informed by pre-existing beliefs about medicines and perceptions of personal sensitivity to their effects (pharmaceutical schemas). We tested whether (1) pharmaceutical schemas were associated with memory (recall/recognition) for side effect information (2) memory explained the attribution of a common unrelated symptom as a side effect. Design: In this analogue study participants saw the patient leaflet of a fictitious asthma drug listing eight side effects. Main outcome measures: We measured recall and recognition memory for side effects and used a vignette to test whether participants attributed an unlisted common symptom (headache) as a side effect. Results: Participants who perceived pharmaceuticals as more harmful in general recalled fewer side effects correctly (rCorrect Recall = −.273), were less able to differentiate between listed and unlisted side effects (rRecognition Sensitivity = −.256) and were more likely to attribute the unlisted headache symptom as a side effect (rside effect attribution = .381, ps < .01). The effect of harm beliefs on side effect attribution was partially mediated by correct recall of side effects. Conclusion: Pharmaceutical schemas are associated with memory for side effect information. Memory may explain part of the association between pharmaceutical schemas and the attribution of unrelated symptoms as side effects.
Heller, M. K., Chapman, S. CE., & Horne, R. (2017). No blank slates: Pre-existing schemas about pharmaceuticals predict memory for side effects. Psychology & Health, 32(4), 402-421. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2016.1273355