How numeracy influences risk comprehension and medical decision making.

Author Name: 
Reyna VF, Nelson WL, Han PK, Dieckmann. 2009.
Publication Date: 
Friday, June 6, 2008
Private File Attachment: 
A basic understanding of numerical concepts is arguably as important for informed decision making as literacy. Low numeracy distorts perceptions of risks and benefits of screening, reduces medication compliance, impedes access to treatments, impairs risk communication (limiting prevention efforts among the most vulnerable), and, based on the scant research conducted on outcomes, appears to adversely affect medical outcomes. Low numeracy is also associated with greater susceptibility to extraneous factors (i.e., factors that do not change the objective numerical information). That is, low numeracy increases susceptibility to effects of mood or how information is presented (e.g., as frequencies vs. percentages) and to biases in judgment and decision making (e.g., framing and ratio bias effects). Much of this research is not grounded in empirically supported theories of numeracy or mathematical cognition, which are crucial for designing evidence-based policies and interventions that are effective in reducing risk and improving medical decision making. To address this gap, the authors outline four theoretical approaches (psychophysical, computational, standard dual-process, and fuzzy trace theory), review their implications for numeracy, and point to avenues for future research. (Martin, J. 2013)