Sunday, October 18, 2015: 2:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Mills Studio 5 (Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch)
Course Director:

Course Type: Half Day
Course Level: Beginner

Overview: This course introduces participants to psychological theory and empirical research related to making decisions in health and medicine. The psychology of decision making can be used to understand patient and physician behavior and to design behavioral and environmental interventions to improve diagnoses and optimize decision making.

Background: Physicians and patients share a common cognition, whose reliance on a fallible memory and manageable reasoning strategies makes each of them prone to error, though capable of remarkably good approximate reasoning in many situations. Psychologists and cognitive scientists have developed important insights with implications for our understanding of medical decision making and our attempts to improve it.

Format Requirements: The course involves presentation of information by lectures, demonstrations, and small and large group discussions. Attendees should expect to be actively involved in discussions of psychological phenomena as they relate to their clinical, teaching, or research interests. There are no prerequisites for this introductory course.

Description and Objectives: The course will cover: 1) problems with decision making, 2) how the environment we operate in affects our decisions, 3) the role of emotions in decision making, 4) ways to address decision making errors, and 5) practical applications of the lessons from the psychology of decision making to medicine. Along the way we will cover cognitive heuristics and their resulting biases, our ability to describe our decision processes and to learn from experience, environmental constraints on judgment, strategies for debiasing, and individual differences in our susceptibility to bias.


  • To understand patient and physician vulnerability to cognition-based errors.
  • To understand the influence of the social, emotional, and informational environment upon health-related decisions.
  • To develop approaches to support physician self-monitoring and improvement, as well as appropriate patient engagement in decision making, based on psychological theory.
Course Director:

Victoria A. Shaffer, PhD
University of Missouri
Associate Professor
School of Health Professions; Department of Psychological Sciences

Course Faculty:

Laura D. Scherer, PhD
University of Missouri
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychological Sciences

Marieke de Vries, PhD
Tilburg University

Negin Hajizadeh, MD, MPH
Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine
Instructor in Medicine and K12 Scholar
Population Health, Section on Value and Effectiveness