Maybe you've had a reoccurring sore throat or frequent headaches. Perhaps the pain in your leg won't go away. In the past, you might have gone to a doctor's office to diagnose symptoms.
Today, people are more likely to go online to punch in their symptoms.
Details of a new study examining how symptoms presented online influence people's reactions to possible medical conditions will be presented in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Researchers found that identifying symptoms in "streaks" - sequences of consecutive items on a list that are either general or specific - prompted people to perceive higher disease risk than symptoms that were not identified in an uninterrupted series.
The research was conducted by Arizona State University Associate Psychology Professor Virginia Kwan, 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.
"A recent report by the Health Information National Trends Survey examined the use of Internet in seeking cancer-related information. More than 60 percent of individuals who are feeling ill go to the Internet to search for health information. Many decide to go to the doctor or not based on what they learn online," Kwan said. "This is really an era of self-diagnosis. To our knowledge, our study is the first to examine the impact of online presentation formats on medical decision making."
The research team reviewed the symptom presentations of the 12 deadliest forms of cancer for either males or females on five reputable cancer websites. All of the sites varied in how symptoms were given with some in bullet points, others in paragraphs, severe and common symptoms listed in varied ways and the number of symptoms.
Two studies were conducted, one where a fictional type of thyroid cancer was presented to study participants with six symptoms listed. Researchers varied the way the symptoms were presented from three common and frequently experienced symptoms (i.e. – feeling easily fatigued) followed by three specific symptoms (i.e. – lump in neck); another group was presented symptoms with three specific followed by three common; and the third group received a symptoms list with common and specific interspersed. Researchers used the fictional cancer to ensure no one had prior knowledge of symptoms.
Study participants in the first two groups reported similar results, but the perceived medical risk was significantly lower for the last group that received specific and common symptoms that were interspersed.
A second study for a real type of brain cancer reported the same results as the first study, but when the symptom list was expanded to 12, effects of a list of consecutive series of symptoms was diluted.
"The length of the list matters," Kwan said. "This is analogous to a dilution effect. If you don't have that many symptoms, you may not experience concern about getting that disease if you're looking at a long list."
Medical implications of the study include insight into how symptoms may be presented online, depending on goals. For instance, if someone wants to increase awareness of an emerging medical issue that requires treatment, symptoms that are more likely to be checked off in sequence can be grouped together, Kwan said.
According to Votruba, "If there are concerns that the perceptions of disease risk are too high, possibly resulting in over utilization of health services, then symptom lists should alternate common and specific symptoms or create longer symptom lists."
"Previous research shows that perception of risk of disease is a powerful predictor of health preventative behavior (such as going to the doctor)," Kwan said. "How information is presented online will make a substantive difference in behavior."
Media Relations Officer
Arizona State University
Julie Newberg | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.asu.edu
More articles from Studies and Analyses:
Promising Alzheimer´s drug trialled in a large EU study
09.12.2013 | University of Gothenburg
Majority of epilepsy surgery patients enjoy improvement in their physical and social well-being
09.12.2013 | Henry Ford Health System
In power electronics systems bonded connections create the central electrical connections between adjoining surfaces.
The quality of these bonded connections is one of the main factors that determines the reliability and availability of drive systems in electric vehicles, and hence constitutes a major design challenge for German auto manufacturers aiming to electrify their vehicles.
Now the partners participating in the RoBE (Robust Bonds in ...
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
09.12.2013 | Materials Sciences
09.12.2013 | Life Sciences
09.12.2013 | Studies and Analyses
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News