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J Health Commun. 2006 Sep;11(6):569-82.

The influence of graphic format on breast cancer risk communication.

Author information

1
General Internal Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, USA. mschap@mcw.edu

Abstract

Graphic displays can enhance quantitative risk communication. However, empiric data regarding the effect of graphic format on risk perception is lacking. We evaluate the effect of graphic format elements on perceptions of risk magnitude and perceived truth of data. Preferences for format also were assessed. Participants (254 female primary care patients) viewed a series of hypothetical risk communications regarding the lifetime risk of breast cancer. Identical numeric risk information was presented using different graphic formats. Risk was perceived to be of lower magnitude when communicated with a bar graph as compared with a pictorial display (p < 0.0001), or with consecutively versus randomly highlighted symbols in a pictorial display (p = 0.0001). Data were perceived to be more true when presented with random versus consecutive highlights in a pictorial display (p < 0.01). A pictorial display was preferred to a bar graph format for the presentation of breast cancer risk estimates alone (p = 0.001). When considering breast cancer risk in comparison to heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis, however, bar graphs were preferred pictorial displays (p < 0.001). In conclusion, elements of graphic format used to convey quantitative risk information effects key domains of risk perception. One must be cognizant of these effects when designing risk communication strategies.

PMID:
16950729
DOI:
10.1080/10810730600829916
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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