Testing Map Features Designed to Convey the Uncertainty of Cancer Risk: Insights Gained From Assessing Judgments of Information Adequacy and Communication Goals

Dolores J. Severtson

Barriers to communicating the uncertainty of environmental health risks include preferences for certain information and low numeracy. Map features designed to communicate the magnitude and uncertainty of estimated cancer risk from air pollution were tested among 826 participants to assess how map features influenced judgments of adequacy and the intended communication goals. An uncertain versus certain visual feature was judged as less adequate but met both communication goals and addressed numeracy barriers. Expressing relative risk using words communicated uncertainty and addressed numeracy barriers but was judged as highly inadequate. Risk communication and visual cognition concepts were applied to explain findings.



In-group rationalizations of risk and indoor tanning: A textual analysis of an online forum

Nick Carcioppolo, Elena V. Chudnovskaya, Andrea Martinez Gonzalez, Tyler Stephan

Unlike other health behaviors, there does not appear to be a strong relationship between perceived skin cancer risk and reduction or cessation of indoor tanning bed use. This study seeks to address this inconsistency by determining how indoor tanning bed users rationalize skin cancer risk with their tanning behavior. Qualitative textual analysis of indoor tanning message board posts (N = 330) revealed varied perceptions of risk, including acknowledging the risk of indoor tanning; denying or downplaying risk, often citing perceived health benefits associated with tanning; blaming outside forces for cancer, such as lotion or genetics; and fatalistic beliefs about cancer. These results highlight the nuanced relationship between perceived skin cancer risk and indoor tanning bed use.


Public engagement with scientific evidence in health: A qualitative study among primary-care patients in an urban population

Marilyn M. Schapira, Diana Imbert, Eric Oh, Elena Byhoff, Judy A. Shea

The purpose of this study is to explore the experience and perspective of patients regarding scientific evidence in health and the degree that this information impacts health behavior and medical decision making. A focus group study was conducted. Participants were recruited from an urban primary-care practice. The focus group discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded by two independent investigators. Emergent themes were identified. Participants (n = 30) ranged in age from 30 to 79 years, 60% were female, 77% were black, and 50% had at least some college experience. Three thematic areas informed a wide range in level of interest regarding scientific study design and result information: (1) scientific literacy, (2) medical decision making style, and (3) impact of culture and community on decision making. Our findings indicate that communication strategies that incorporate key elements of scientific study design, methods, and results will most effectively translate findings from comparative effectiveness research to patient-informed decision making regarding evidence-based health interventions.


How Laypeople Understand the Tentativeness of Medical Research News in the Media: An Experimental Study on the Perception of Information About Deep Brain Stimulation

Joachim Kimmerle, Danny Flemming, Insa Feinkohl, Ulrike Cress

Medical research findings are often tentative, and people should be able to perceive this. However, the psychological processes underlying this ability are largely unclear. In a laboratory experiment, we found that the following factors had an impact on perception of tentativeness of research findings reported in a newspaper article: (a) the framing of findings, (b) emphasis on the limited reliability of the findings in the article, (c) people’s provisional opinion on the topic, and (d) their medicine-related epistemological beliefs. We make recommendations to science journalists to help promote the public understanding of health research and provide suggestions for future studies.