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Doctors work to cut through fake news and online misinformation

These days, finding accurate and helpful information on the internet is no easy task. Even though websites can claim miracle treatments with science to back them, how trustworthy can that information really be? This is especially challenging in the world of healthcare.

Because we live in the age of information, we can find anything and everything from helpful cancer prevention methods to weight loss tips and tricks. With both information and misinformation accessible at our fingertips, how do we filter out the information that will prove most beneficial?

And how do health care professionals convey options and recommendations to their patients in a way that will stick out above the web of misinformation?

Professor of Psychology Dolores Albarracin of the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts and Sciences set out to conduct a study that looked at just these questions.

Albarracin and her team examined over 400 people and their behavior to find the optimal way healthcare providers could convey information to patients.

The results of the study found that it wasn’t so much how the information was conveyed, be it short bursts of a few helpful tidbits or a long list of suggestions. Instead, the effectiveness of the recommendations depended on the overall goal.

“If the goal is to communicate as many recommendations as possible, then go for a long list of behaviors. But if the goal is to implement behaviors, then the best strategy may be to convey a lower number of recommended behaviors,” Albarracin said.

Researchers gave study participants lists of health recommendations that varied in length and then asked those participants to recall as many recommendations as they could and discuss their plans to follow through on the recommendations.

The more recommendations that were given, the fewer items were recalled. But in retrospect, more recommendations were remembered overall if the goal was to follow through on them.

This study highlights the importance of broadening one’s education, especially when it comes to healthcare. The results demonstrate how the way information is communicated is directly correlated with how effective it is in impacting one’s behavior.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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