The Role of Agency and Communion in Attitudes Toward Smart Drugs
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Recent advances in biotechnology have opened the door to new forms of human enhancement via smart drugs. Studies show that the decision by healthy individuals to use off-label pharmaceuticals in an attempt to self-enhance is surprisingly common in student populations. These studies investigate attitudes toward smart drug use in oneself and in others by relating enhancement decisions to key psychological variables, with a focus on the social dimensions of agency and communion. Data from three main studies and one pilot study show that people generally want to enhance any traits they feel they lack and which they see as important and negatively related to communion. Preferences toward distinctly agentic and communal traits indicate that people prefer to enhance in themselves traits that are associated with agentic themes of intelligence, efficiency, and capability more so than traits associated with communal themes of kindness, trustworthiness, and social relationships. This preference is reversed when considering self-enhancement of others, suggesting that attitudes toward smart drug use vary according to the perspective of actor or observer. Evidence from a priming study also affirms the importance of agency for the self: participants primed with agency were more willing than neutral participants to enhance agentic traits, while priming communion had no measurable effect on self-enhancement preferences.