Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Enhancing Understanding and Recall of Quantitative Information about Medical Risks: A Cross-Cultural Comparison between Germany and Spain

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Enhancing Understanding and Recall of Quantitative Information about Medical Risks: A Cross-Cultural Comparison between Germany and Spain

Article excerpt

In two experiments, we analyzed cross-cultural differences in understanding and recalling information about medical risks in two countries-Germany and Spain-whose students differ substantially in their quantitative literacy according to the 2003 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA; OECD, 2003, 2010). We further investigated whether risk understanding can be enhanced by using visual aids (Experiment 1), and whether different ways of describing risks affect recall (Experiment 2). Results showed that Spanish students are more vulnerable to misunderstanding and forgetting the risk information than their German counterparts. Spanish students, however, benefit more than German students from representing the risk information using ecologically rational formats-which exploit the way information is represented in the human mind. We concluded that our results can have important implications for clinical practice.

Keywords: medical risks, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), risk perception, risk communication.

En dos experimentos, hemos analizado si existen diferencias culturales en la comprensión y recuerdo de información sobre riesgos médicos. Nos hemos centrado en dos países-Alemania y España-ya que, según los resultados encontrados en el Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA; OECD, 2003, 2010). los estudiantes procedentes de los mismos difieren substancialmente en sus habilidades para procesar información cuantitativa. Así mismo hemos investigado si es posible mejorar la comprensión de los riesgos médicos mediante el uso de material visual de apoyo (Experimento 1), o del uso de diferentes formatos verbales para describir dichos riesgos (Experimento 2). Los resultados de nuestros experimentos han puesto de manifiesto que los estudiantes españoles son más vulnerables a interpretar incorrectamente y a olvidar la información sobre los riesgos que los estudiantes alemanes. Sin embargo, los primeros se benefician en mayor medida que los segundos de la representación de la información sobre riesgos médicos a través del uso de formatos ecológicos-los cuales representan la información de un modo similar a como lo hace la mente humana. Concluimos que nuestros resultados pueden tener implicaciones importantes para la práctica clínica.

Palabras clave: riesgos médicos, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), percepción de riesgos, comunicación de riesgos.

Many people have difficulties when processing numerical information and probability expressions (Galesic & Garcia-Retamero, 2010; Gigerenzer, Gaissmaier, Kurz-Milcke, Schwartz, & Woloshin, 2008). Understanding and recalling percentages associated with medical risks and chances of benefits and drawbacks of different treatments, however, is crucial to making informed decisions about health (Feixas & Saul, 2004; Garcia-Retamero & Galesic, 2009b; Gigerenzer & Hoffrage, 1995). Solving problems that require the use of numerical information is broadly called quantitative literacy (Montori & Rothman, 2005). In this paper, we focus on cross-cultural differences in understanding and recalling medical information between two countries whose citizens differ substantially in their quantitative literacy: Germany and Spain.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments carried out every 3 years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to measure 15-year-old students' literacy skills. Quantitative literacy was the subject area assessed in the 2003 study, which focused on four broad areas: having a basic number sense, recognizing geometric patterns, understanding functional relationships, and understanding the concept of uncertainty (OECD, 2003; see also OECD, 2010).

The 2003 PISA study results show that overall performance of Spanish students in quantitative literacy was substantially lower than the average performance for students from most OECD countries (484 vs. …

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