Consumers’ evaluation of allocation policies for scarce health care services: Vested interest activation trumps spatial and temporal distance

The allocation of scarce health care service resources often requires trade-offs between individual and collective outcomes (e.g., when some individuals benefit more strongly from a given policy than others). Based on construal level theory, one would expect that consumers cognitively represent the individual and collective outcomes of an allocation policy at different levels of abstraction and that they evaluate allocation policies more positively when there is congruency between the cognitive representation of the policy’s focal outcome and the spatial and temporal distance inherently present in the policy’s decision context (e.g., allocation decisions on a future policy). However, we hypothesize that this congruency effect can be overruled by a high vested interest mindset that is activated by an individual’s recent personal experience with a health care service provider. Since a high vested interest mindset increases the relevance of the allocation policy implementation for the individual because s/he perceives strong personal consequences, we propose that for consumers with recent experience the evaluation of an allocation policy that focuses on individual outcomes is higher than that of a policy that focuses on collective outcomes irrespective of the spatial and temporal distance in the decision context. Results of a hypothetical experiment amongst a representative sample of the general population provide support for the proposed overruling effect of the activation of a high vested interest mindset by recent personal experience on spatial and temporal distance.

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