Finding Solutions to Institutional Corruption: Lessons from Cognitive Dissonance Theory

20 Pages Posted: 7 May 2013 Last revised: 9 May 2013

See all articles by Lisa Cosgrove

Lisa Cosgrove

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Robert Whitaker

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Date Written: May 9, 2013

Abstract

The American Psychiatric Association and academic psychiatry in the United States have two conflicts of interest that may affect their assessment of psychiatric drugs and their development of diagnostic and clinical care guidelines: payments from pharmaceutical companies and guild interests. Until recently, the proposed solution to industry-academic relationships has been transparency. However, cognitive dissonance research reveals that disclosure is not a solution because cognitive biases are commonplace and difficult to eradicate. Indeed, bias is most often manifest in subtle ways unbeknownst to the researcher or clinician, and thus is usually implicit and unintentional. Also, recent studies suggest that disclosure of financial conflicts of interest may actually worsen bias. In this paper we discuss the implications of cognitive dissonance theory for understanding why disclosure or even "management" of financial conflicts of interest are not robust enough solutions to guarantee objectivity and prevent bias. We suggest that as a gold standard commercial ties should be eliminated in settings where new drugs are being tested and assessed, or clinical guidelines are being developed. This solution will require the use of multidisciplinary teams to do the tasks, including methodologists in addition to psychiatrists.

Keywords: Institutional corruption, psychiatry, cognitive dissonance, conflict of interest, guild interest, bias, disclosure

Suggested Citation

Cosgrove, Lisa and Whitaker, Robert, Finding Solutions to Institutional Corruption: Lessons from Cognitive Dissonance Theory (May 9, 2013). Edmond J. Safra Working Papers, No. 9. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2261375 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2261375

Lisa Cosgrove (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Robert Whitaker

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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