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Clinical problem solving and diagnostic decision making: selective review of the cognitive literature

Health, Psychology, decision making, medicine


This article reviews our current understanding of the cognitive processes involved in diagnostic reasoning in clinical medicine. It describes and analyses the psychological processes employed in identifying and solving diagnostic problems and reviews errors and pitfalls in diagnostic reasoning in the light of two particularly influential approaches: problem solving1–3 and decision making.4–8 Problem solving research was initially aimed at describing reasoning by expert physicians, to improve instruction of medical students and house officers. Psychological decision research has been influenced from the start by statistical models of reasoning under uncertainty, and has concentrated on identifying departures from these standards.

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