A wide range of medical institutions have developed and implemented policies to mitigate the adverse consequences of conflicts of interest. These newly implemented policies, which include regulation of industry contact with physicians and hospitals, controls on gifts from industry, and greater transparency in industry sponsored activities, have generated considerable controversy.
Formulating and evaluating policies in a neutral, unbiased fashion can be difficult for those personally affected. When people have a stake in an issue, they tend to process information in a selective fashion that supports their personal interests, a phenomenon known as “motivated reasoning.” When decision makers with preexisting opinions are exposed to information, they are inclined to selectively use the information to arrive at conclusions that justify their prior beliefs. When confronted with information that contradicts existing views, people evaluate it with greater skepticism. Additionally, once decision makers have reached a decision, they are likely to evaluate subsequent evidence in a biased manner that supports their decision.