Minding Design.

Linking behavioral science and the design of spaces, services, and objects.

Easy-to-pronounce products are seen as safer

What's important when choosing a (pharmaceutical) product name? Ease of pronunciation.

People are more willing to buy drugs with easy-to-pronounce names, because they perceive them to be safer. 

An unintended consequence is that people may also be more likely to take too-large doses of easily pronounceable drugs. 

In a recent study, participants were given drug bottles with different names - some that were easy to pronounce and some hard to pronounce.

"All bottles contained 200 mL of liquid drug (which was, in fact, colored water). For each drug, participants were asked to use a measuring cup (with capacity in mL) and one of six transparent cups to pour the amount of liquid drug that they would take during one entire week at the maximum."

Participants chose higher doses for drugs with easy-to-pronounce (vs. hard-to-pronounce) names. This same effect held when they were pouring out doses for someone else.

Why was this? Drugs that had easy-to-pronounce names were judged to be more pleasant, and this reduced people's perceived risk of them and increased their dosage.

And this link between pronounceability and hazardousness doesn't just hold for drugs. For example, people perceive food additives with easy-to-pronounce names like Magnalroxate to be less hazardous than additives with hard-to-pronounce names like Hnegripitrom. Meanwhile, amusement park rides with hard-to-pronounce names are seen as more exciting and more likely to make you sick than rides with easy-to-pronounce names.

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