Decision Aids: Emotional influences on medical decisions


People do not make decisions solely based on risk information. Emotional responses can also play a role. We are interested in exploring how different components of decision aids and medical decisions affect people's emotions and may bias there decisions. We are also interested in learning about ways of communicating information that can help to remove this biasing effect.

The influence of patient testimonials. Patient testimonials regarding the desirability or undesirability of a treatment influence treatment choices independent of statistical information about treatment effectiveness. But, other types of testimonials, such as those that simply describe how a decision was made (rather than providing opinions about available options) may be more helpful. We have an ongoing research agenda in exploring the positive and negative implications of providing patient testimonials.

The influence of affectively-salient outcome information. Some medical outcomes are emotionally powerful. Discussing such outcomes (e.g., colostomies or wound infections) has a powerful effect on patients’ choices, sometimes leading them to make choices that actually hurt their chances of survival. We are currently testing whether such biases can be reduced either by altering the emotional salience of outcomes or by drawing people’s attention to the way their emotional reactions to the outcomes are influencing their decisions.

Perspective of decision-maker. Changing one’s decision role (i.e., imagining making the decision for someone else instead of for oneself) often leads people to make different medical treatment decisions for others than they would for themselves.