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Making difficult health decisions: a motivated decision processing model

Zajac, Laura E. (2011) Making difficult health decisions: a motivated decision processing model. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study introduces and evaluates a model of motivated health decision processing. In this model, threatening health decision information is thought to lead to two potentially incompatible motivations in decision makers: the desire to process information in an effortful manner, and the desire to defend against threat. The model proposes that these dual motivations lead to biased but effortful processing of decision options. The model was tested empirically by experimentally manipulating exposure to threatening information and measuring decision information processing and decision strategy selection. Participants (N = 100; age 40+) were randomly assigned to one of two groups and exposed to either threatening or non-threatening information about skin cancer. They were asked to read about and choose from five skin cancer treatments; a computerized process-tracing tool recorded their pattern of information acquisition as they perused the information. Results showed that compared to participants in the low threat condition, participants in the high threat condition were more likely to avoid information about death and to use an attribute-based decision strategy. Participants in the high threat condition and participants who used an attribute-based decision strategy were also more likely to make an accurate decision. Post hoc analyses showed that participants in the high threat condition were more likely than participants in the low threat condition to use an effective lexicographic decision strategy, and that anxiety and impulsivity moderated the relationship between condition and decision strategy. The results of this study suggest that exposure to perceived threats can lead to patients' avoidance of frightening, but important, information about treatments and to the use of heuristic decision strategies while making treatment decisions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Zajac, Laura E.lzajac@pitt.eduLZAJAC
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairKamarck, Thomas
Committee CoChairKlein, William
Committee MemberBryce, Cindy
Committee MemberDowns, Julie
Committee MemberGreenberg, Martin
Committee MemberManuck, Stephen
Date: 30 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 13 September 2010
Approval Date: 30 September 2011
Submission Date: 7 August 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 105
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: decision making; health decisions
Other ID:, etd-08072011-172302
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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