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Med Decis Making. 2009 Mar-Apr;29(2):193-201. doi: 10.1177/0272989X08327395. Epub 2009 Mar 11.

Anchoring-and-adjustment bias in communication of disease risk.

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Social and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Over the next decade, advances in genomics will make it increasingly possible to provide patients with personalized, genetic-based risks of common diseases, allowing them the opportunity to take preventive steps through behavioral changes. However, previous research indicates that people may insufficiently adjust their subjective risk to the objective risk value communicated to them by a healthcare provider, a phenomenon called anchoring-and-adjustment bias. In this narrative review, we analyze existing research on how patients process disease-risk information, and the processing biases that may occur, to show that the bias observed in disease-risk communication is potentially malleable to change. We recommend that, to reduce this bias and change patients' misperceptions of disease risk in clinical settings, future studies investigate the effects of forewarning patients about the bias, tailoring risk information to their numeracy level, emphasizing social roles, increasing motivation to form accurate risk perception, and reducing social stigmatization, disease worry and information overload.

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