Errors of intuitive logic among physicians

Jonathan Borak, Suzanne Veilleux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The effectiveness of specific training in statistics and decision-making principles upon physicians' judgmental skills was assessed by means of problems of intuitive logical reasoning. The responses of 43 statistically sophisticated physicians (SP) were compared to those of 42 practicing physicians (PP), 43 clinical nurses (CN) and 41 hospital laborers (HL). On problems evaluating use of faulty heuristics in judgment of conditional probabilities, the SP group's responses were the most biased. The proportion of subjects displaying consistent use of a particular heuristic in solving the three problems were 0.36 (SP), 0.45 (PP), 0.35 (CN) and 0.41 (HL). On problems assessing use of prevalence rate data in estimating probabilities, SP performed substantially better than the other groups: 34% of their responses were accurate. However, 37% of their responses reflected ignorance of prevalence information concepts. We conclude that intensive statistical and decision-making training of physicians is likely to be of only limited value for improving clinicians' judgmental skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1939-1943
Number of pages5
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number22
StatePublished - 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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