Coping with uncertainty in public health: the use of heuristics

Cummings, L., 2014. Coping with uncertainty in public health: the use of heuristics. Perspectives in Public Health, 128 (4), pp. 391-394. ISSN 0033-3506


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The observation that experts and lay people use cognitive shortcuts or heuristics to arrive at judgements about complex problems is certainly not new. But what is new is the finding that a group of reasoning strategies, which have been maligned by philosophers and logicians alike, have demonstrable value in helping members of the public come to a judgement about public health problems. These problems, which span food safety crises, immunization scares and risks associated with exposure to environmental toxins, presuppose knowledge and expertise which falls outside of the epistemic and technical competence of most members of the public. Notwithstanding the complexity of these problems, they are not perceived by lay people to be wholly unintelligible or incomprehensible. This short communication reports on the findings of a questionnaire-based investigation into the use of these reasoning strategies by 879 members of the public. The results reveal a rational competence on the part of lay people which has been hitherto unexamined, and which may be usefully exploited in all aspects of public health work.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Perspectives in Public Health
Creators: Cummings, L.
Publisher: W.B. Saunders Co. Ltd.
Date: 2014
Volume: 128
Number: 4
ISSN: 0033-3506
Rights: Copyright © 2014 Royal Society for Public Health
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 10:40
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2016 09:11

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