Objectives: Many patients want help in considering medical information relevant to treatment decisions they have to make or agree to. The present research investigated whether focussing on particular issues relevant to a medical treatment decision (using an apparently non-directive procedure) could systematically bias a treatment decision. Design and methods: In a randomized design, participants (community volunteers, n = 146) were given standard information about treatment of cardiac risk factors by medication (statins). There were four experimental interventions in which the participants focussed on the likely personal relevance of subsets of the information previously given (positive, negative, or mixed aspects) or on irrelevant information. Participants were asked to rate their anticipated likelihood of accepting treatment before and after the experimental intervention. Results: The rating of acceptance of treatment was significantly increased by positive focussing; negative focussing did not significantly alter the decision rating. Conclusions: The results partially replicate similar studies in health screening decisions. Reasons for the differences in results from those obtained in screening studies are considered. It is suggested that negative focussing may have less effect in decisions in which there are few risks.
- Decision making
- Non-directive counselling