Abstract: Background: One of the major issues in transplantation is to find a strategy to overcome the scarcity of human organs. One of the interventions under investigation is represented by xenotransplantation. The present study aimed to understand the role of psychological factors on people’s perception of xenotransplantation. In particular, we tested a condition in which different alternatives (e.g., human vs. pig donors) are presented together allowing people to compare among them (joint evaluation) and two conditions in which people are presented with only one of the two alternatives and cannot compare them (separate evaluation).
Methods: The study was conducted with three different groups of participants: patients waiting for liver transplantation (N = 31 in joint evaluation and N = 30 in each of the two separate evaluation conditions); students (N = 30 in join evaluation and N = 30 in each of the two separate evaluation conditions); and healthy adults (N = 30 in joint evaluation and N = 30 in each of the two separate evaluation conditions). Participants were presented with hypothetical scenarios and asked how good (or bad) were their feelings toward one or two types of donor (e.g., human and pig).
Results: Patients showed a skeptical attitude toward xenotransplantation both when it was evaluated together with the human donor (P < 0.01) or when it was evaluated separately (P < 0.01). Differently, when asked to evaluate each donor separately healthy adults and students showed similar affective reactions toward the two alternatives (human organ and xenograft).
Conclusions: The present study demonstrates that the evaluation context may increase the impact of affective reactions and reduce healthy people’s ability to use information on the potential benefit of a novel biomedical technology. Regardless of the evaluation context, patients always rely on affective reactions and show an overall preference for the human organ.