Using visual aids to improve communication of risks about health: a review
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Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Decision-makingBreast cancerMedical riskCognitive reflectionNumeracy skillsInformationLiteracy
García-Retamero, R.; Okan, Y.; Cokely, E.T. Using visuala aids to improve communication of risks about health: a review. Scientific World Journal, 2012: 562637 (2012). [doi: 10.1100/2012/562637]
SponsorshipThese studies are part of the projects ‘‘Helping People with Low Numeracy to Understand Medical Information,’’ funded by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (United States) and the Max Planck Society (Germany), “How to Improve Understanding of Risks about Health (PSI2008-02019),” funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain), “Helping Doctors and Their Patients Make Decisions about Health (PSI2011-22954)” funded by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Spain), and “Strategies to Improve Comprehensions of Risks about Health” (Proyecto de Movilidad; Acciones Integradas) funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain).
Recent research has shown that patients frequently experience difficulties understanding health-relevant numerical concepts. A prominent example is denominator neglect, or the tendency to pay too much attention to numerators in ratios (e.g., number of treated patients who died) with insufficient attention to denominators (e.g., overall number of treated patients). Denominator neglect can lead to inaccurate assessments of treatment risk reduction and thus can have important consequences for decisions about health. Here, we reviewed a series of studies investigating (1) different factors that can influence patients’ susceptibility to denominator neglect in medical decision making—including numerical or language-related abilities; (2) the extent to which denominator neglect can be attenuated by using visual aids; and (3) a factor that moderates the effectiveness of such aids (i.e., graph literacy). The review spans probabilistic national U.S. and German samples, as well as immigrant (i.e., Polish people living in the United Kingdom) and undergraduate samples in Spain. Theoretical and prescriptive implications are discussed.