SMDM Core Course: Introduction to Psychology of Medical Decision Making

10 April 2024
08.00 PDT/11.00 EDT/15.00 UTC/17.00 CEST

Course Faculty:


Kathrene (KD) Valentine, PhD Dr. Valentine is Research Staff with the Health Decision Sciences Center in the General Medicine Division at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is interested in shared decision making, risk communication, the validity of measurements of decision quality and patient preferences, and patient’s reactions to recommendations and guidelines. Her research program focuses on the application of insights from the psychological and quantitative sciences to create a better understanding of the formation, measurement, and influence of patient preferences in preference-sensitive decision contexts. Her training in decision sciences, risk communication, and quantitative and qualitative analytics, provides her with the unique perspective and methods to measure patient preferences and values, identify how and why these change over time, and how these influence decisions. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Missouri State University, a Master of Science in Experimental Psychology from Missouri State University, a Doctorate of Philosophy in Quantitative Psychology from the University of Missouri, and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Health Decision Sciences Center in at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Pete Wegier is the Research Chair in Optimizing Care Through Technology at Humber River Hospital and an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation; and Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. Using a combination of information design, medical informatics, and decision science, Pete designs and implements technology-mediated solutions to improve healthcare and medical decision making.


Format Requirements: The course involves presentation of information by lectures, demonstrations, and small and large group discussions. Attendees should expect to be actively involved in discussions of psychological phenomena as they relate to their clinical, teaching, or research interests. There are no prerequisites for this introductory course.

Background: This course introduces participants to psychological theory and empirical research related to making decisions in health and medicine. The psychology of decision making can be used to understand patient and physician behavior and to design behavioral and environmental interventions to improve diagnoses and optimize decision making.

Description and Objectives: This is one of the four core short courses of the permanent SMDM curriculum. The SMDM curriculum is a new initiative of the Society with the goal of having a set of introductory-level core courses in foundational aspects of medical decision making. This effort serves the core mission of the Society to educate its members in key content areas, including decision modeling, cost-effectiveness analysis, the psychology of medical decision making, and shared decision making.

The course will cover: 1) problems with decision making, 2) how the environment we operate in affects our decisions, 3) ways to address decision making errors, and 4) practical applications of the lessons from decision psychology. Along the way we will cover cognitive heuristics and their resulting biases, our ability to describe our decision processes and to learn from experience, environmental constraints on judgment, strategies for debiasing, and individual differences in our susceptibility to bias.


To understand patient and physician vulnerability to cognition-based errors.
To understand the influence of the social, institutional, and informational environment upon health-related decisions.
To develop approaches to support self-monitoring and improvement, as well as appropriate patient engagement in decision making, based on psychological theory.




Return to Core Course Certificate Program Page


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