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Understanding High-Stakes Consumer Decisions: Mammography Adherence Following False-Alarm Test Results


  • Barbara E. Kahn

    () (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 3730 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Mary Frances Luce

    () (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 3730 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)


Consumers often have to decide whether to acquire information in high-stakes decision domains. We study women in mammography waiting rooms to test how a “false-alarm” result (i.e., an indication that a malady is present when a “more accurate” follow-up test reveals it is not) affects willingness to get retested. In Study 1 we show that, given a false-alarm result, life-threatening test consequences are associated with more disutility for future testing than when test consequences are less significant; this does not hold for normal test results. In Study 2 in the mammography context, we show that patients receiving a false-alarm result experienced more stress, were less likely to believe that a positive mammography result indicated cancer, and more likely to delay mammography than patients receiving normal results unless they were also told that they may be vulnerable to breast cancer in the future. We show that delays in planned adherence following a false-alarm result can be mitigated by an information intervention. Finally, we have preliminary evidence that a previous history of false-positive results can cause a consumer to both react more negatively to emotional stress and respond more positively to coping information.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara E. Kahn & Mary Frances Luce, 2003. "Understanding High-Stakes Consumer Decisions: Mammography Adherence Following False-Alarm Test Results," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(3), pages 393-410, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:22:y:2003:i:3:p:393-410

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Camacho, N.M.A. & de Jong, M.G. & Stremersch, S., 2014. "The Effect of Customer Empowerment on Adherence to Expert Advice," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2014-005-MKT, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    2. Carolina Werle, 2011. "The Determinants of Preventive Health Behavior: Literature Review and Research Perspectives," Working paper serie RMT - Grenoble Ecole de Management hal-00638266, HAL.
    3. Aaker, Jennifer L. & Lee, Angela Y., 2006. "Understanding Regulatory Fit," Research Papers 1910, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    4. Osimani, Barbara, 2012. "Risk information processing and rational ignoring in the health context," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 169-179.
    5. repec:hal:wpaper:hal-00638266 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Burson, Katherine A. & Faro, David & Rottenstreich, Yuval, 2010. "ABCs of principal-agent interactions: Accurate predictions, biased processes, and contrasts between working and delegating," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 113(1), pages 1-12, September.
    7. Adam Duhachek & Anne T. Coughlan & Dawn Iacobucci, 2005. "Results on the Standard Error of the Coefficient Alpha Index of Reliability," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(2), pages 294-301, July.


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