Two new psychology papers on diagnosis

Ben Rottman rottman at PITT.EDU
Thu Dec 15 16:14:18 UTC 2016

Dear ImproveDX Readers,

I recently published two new psychology papers on diagnosis that might interest some of you. One paper investigates the use of base rate (disease prevalence) knowledge when forming a preliminary diagnosis. The other investigates how well physicians make post-test judgments in reference to their own pre-test judgments and beliefs about the sensitivity and specificity of the test. I believe that these papers provide some of the strongest evidence that physicians actually can be fairly rational (in terms of Bayes’ rule) when forming diagnoses.

The main limitation of these papers is that they both involve reasoning about vignette cases, not real patients in-person. The main strength is that they investigate physicians’ use of their own beliefs about disease prevalence, which has rarely been done in the past, and probably explains why physicians often look so irrational in prior studies.

Paper 1 on Preliminary Diagnoses: Open Access Link
Paper 2 on pre-test post-test diagnostic updating:
or if you have trouble downloading it you can get it here:

Feel free to share your thoughts on the listserv or to me via email.

Ben Rottman
Assistant Professor Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
rottman at

Moderator: David Meyers, Board Member, Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine

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