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Ecological RationalityIntelligence in the World$
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Peter M. Todd and Gerd Gigerenzer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195315448

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195315448.001.0001

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Designing Risk Communication in Health

Designing Risk Communication in Health

Chapter:
17 Designing Risk Communication in Health
Source:
Ecological Rationality
Author(s):

Stephanie Kurzenhäuser

Ulrich Hoffrage

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195315448.003.0130

This chapter explores how the representation of statistical information affects the understanding of risks and uncertainties in medical contexts. Using mammography screening as a prime example, it is shown that problems in understanding and dealing with numbers are often due to poorly designed information environments, rather than to internal deficiencies of the human mind. For three types of statistical information that physicians and patients often encounter—conditional probabilities, single-event probabilities, and relative risks—a representation is proposed that facilitates understanding. These are compared to the representations actually used in published materials about mammography screening. Factors in the environment that can contribute to innumeracy are identified and the question of why risks are not always communicated in a transparent manner is addressed. Finally, recommendations are formulated for changes, in both the information environment and the institutional and legal environments, that could help foster statistical thinking and informed decisions about medical screening.

Keywords:   risk communication, information representation, natural frequencies, screening, mammography, innumeracy, statistical thinking, risk reduction, informed consent, pamphlets

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