Behavioural Science Blog

The Science of Human Behaviour

Experimental Design for the Study of Explanatory Diagnosis

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The study of explanatory diagnosis can best be conducted with an experiment, manipulating the data in a way so that an ambiguous, specific cause for mental illness is rendered more active in the mind of the clinician. This could be a for example a case about psychotic behaviour that could be attributed to a depression or dementia. One would prime either the concept of depression or dementia beforehand and see if that influences the clinicians explanation of the possible causes of the illness. In fact this poses a 2 (information data) x 2 (priming) design, that allows to test some assumptions about the process of evaluation. For example it would be interesting to see if the clinician is more likely to assimilate data if he or she has been primed with the congruent concept beforehand. The priming manipulation could be done in several ways, supra and subliminally. One ecological valid manipulation would be to have the clinician read other patients cases beforehand that have a distinct diagnosis (either depression or dementia) and see if the still active construct is carried on to the evaluation of the next patient.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

April 1, 2008 at 1:12 am

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