Probability biases in genetic problem solving: A comparison of undergraduates, genetic counseling graduate students, and genetic counselors

Margaret E. Dewhurst, Patricia Mc Carthy Veach, Claudia Lampman, John Petraitis, Juihsien Kao, Bonnie LeRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Heuristics are mental shortcuts that aid people in everyday problem-solving and decision-making. Although numerous studies have demonstrated their use in contexts ranging from consumers' shopping decisions to experts' estimations of experimental validity, virtually no published research has addressed heuristics use in problems involving genetic conditions and associated risk probabilities. The present research consists of two studies. In the first study, 220 undergraduates attempted to solve four genetic problems-two common heuristic problems modified to focus on genetic likelihood, and two created to study heuristics and probability rule application. Results revealed that the vast majority of undergraduates used heuristics and also demonstrated a complete misuse of probability rules. In the second study, 156 practicing genetic counselors and 89 genetic counseling students solved slightly modified versions of the genetic problems used in Study 1. Results indicated that a large percentage of both genetic counselors and students used heuristics, but the counselors demonstrated superior problem-solving performance compared to both the genetic counseling students and the undergraduates from Study 1. Research, training, and practice recommendations are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-170
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007

Keywords

  • Genetic counseling probability
  • Genetic counseling risk
  • Heuristics and genetic risk

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