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J Health Commun. 2009 Sep;14(6):556-72. doi: 10.1080/10810730903089630.

Aversion to ambiguity regarding medical tests and treatments: measurement, prevalence, and relationship to sociodemographic factors.

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  • 1Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Aversion to "ambiguity"-uncertainty about the reliability, credibility, or adequacy of risk-related information-is an important problem that may influence judgments and decisions about medical interventions. Ambiguity aversion (AA) varies among individuals, however, and has been understudied in the health domain. To explore this phenomenon further, we developed a new theory-based measure of aversion to ambiguity regarding medical tests and treatments, and examined the prevalence and association of AA with sociodemographic factors. The "AA-Med" scale was developed using a large survey sample of the U.S. public (n = 4,398), and scale psychometric properties and the population distribution of AA were evaluated. The scale demonstrated acceptable reliability (alpha = .73) and validity as ascertained by association with respondents' interest in a hypothetical ambiguous cancer screening test. Ambiguity aversion (AA) was associated with older age, non-White race, lower education and income, and female sex. The AA-Med scale is a promising new measure, and AA is associated with several sociodemographic factors. We discuss implications of these findings and potential applications of the scale for future research.

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