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Simple Heuristics in a Social World$
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Ralph Hertwig, Ulrich Hoffrage, and ABC Research Group

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388435

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388435.001.0001

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Trust-Your-Doctor: A Simple Heuristic in Need of a Proper Social Environment

Trust-Your-Doctor: A Simple Heuristic in Need of a Proper Social Environment

Chapter:
(p.67) 3 Trust-Your-Doctor: A Simple Heuristic in Need of a Proper Social Environment
Source:
Simple Heuristics in a Social World
Author(s):

Odette Wegwarth

Gerd Gigerenzer

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388435.003.0003

Many health decisions appear so complex and inscrutable that laypersons may feel the best solution for making a right decision to be “trust your doctor.” Although applying this heuristic may have been rational in the past when access to information was limited, in today's modern world full of advanced science, statistics, and books, it may not always be rational. Using the dual-mode model of trust (Siegrist, Earle, & Gutscher, 2003), this chapter defines requirements in which the “trust-your-doctor” heuristic would and would not be socially rational and subsequently investigated whether these requirements are met in the current environment of health decision making. This chapter focuses on decisions about cancer screening because these do not involve hurry or pain, and evidence on the effectiveness of several screening tests exist. The investigation makes obvious that mere trust in doctors is often not justified, given that many doctors do not know basic facts about screening and some of their decisions are not free of conflicting interests. When investigating the alternative strategy of patients searching for health information on their own, however, the chapter finds it to be unjustified as well, because health-related pamphlets and web sites designed for patients often provide misleading and unbalanced information about screening. To solve this dilemma, the chapter suggests different ways of how to redesign the health environment so that applying the heuristic “trust-your-doctor” when making health decisions can become socially rational again.

Keywords:   heuristic, trust-your-doctor, medical decision making, screening decisions, medical education, understanding of diagnostic tests, knowledge of doctors, defensive medicine, conflict of interests, patient education

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