Googling symptoms affects our perceptions of health risk

   Mar 17, 4:11 pm

Washington, March 17 (ANI): Many people get their health information online, and decide whether to see a doctor based on what they find.

Now, a new study has revealed how checking out symptoms online affects individual health decisions.

Arizona State University psychologist Virginia Kwan and her colleagues found that the way information is presented-specifically, the order in which symptoms are listed-makes a significant difference.

"People irrationally infer more meanings from a 'streak'"-an uninterrupted series whether of high rolls of the dice or disease symptoms of consecutively reported symptoms. If they Google more symptoms in a row, the research found, "they perceive a higher personal risk of having that illness," she explained.

The study was conducted with Sean Wojcik of the University of California, Irvine, Talya Miron-shatz of Ono Academic College, Ashley Votruba of ASU, and Christopher Olivola of the University of Warwick

Surveying cancer-related sites, the researchers discovered that these vary in the way they present common and mild-or "general"-symptoms and more specific and serious ones.

To test how streaks affect risk perception, students were presented with lists of six symptoms of a fictional kind of thyroid cancer ("isthmal").

One group got three general symptoms (such as fatigue and weight fluctuation) followed by three specific ones (e.g., lump in the neck); another the reverse order; and the third group a list alternating between general and specific.

Participants checked off symptoms they'd experienced in the previous six weeks and then rated their perceived likelihood of having the cancer. The first two orders yielded similar risk ratings. But the ratings were significantly lower when the list alternated.

A second experiment compared lists of 12 or 6 symptoms, this time for a real cancer, meningioma. The three orders were the same as in the first experiment.

The effect of order disappeared for the longer, but not the shorter, list-that is, the influence of streaks was diluted when the list was longer. It's possible that even if a participant checked a series of symptoms-leading to suspicion of disease-boxes left unchecked offered reassurance of to the contrary, the researchers think.

The findings could prove useful for public health education, Kwan noted.

The study appeared in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. (ANI)

Grapes can help counter high fat diets May 4, 12:44 pm
Washington D.C, May 4 (ANI): Grapes might be just what you need to add to your diet as a recent study has revealed that grape polyphenols can help counter the negative effects of high fat diet.
Full Story
Yoga, aquatic exercise can relieve symptoms of MS May 4, 11:15 am
Washington D.C, May 4 (ANI): Now, there is a way to reduce your multiple sclerosis flare-ups. A new study has suggested that yoga and aquatic exercise can help combat certain symptoms.
Full Story
Study claims genetic switches can increase lifespan May 3, 12:21 pm
Washington D.C., May 3 (ANI): Recently discovered genetic switches that increase lifespan and boost fitness in worms are now being linked to increased lifespan in mammals and are offering hope that drugs to flip these switches could improve human metabolic function.
Full Story
Comments