SMDM Core Course: Introduction to Psychology of 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 physician self-monitoring and improvement, as well as appropriate patient engagement in decision making, based on psychological theory.

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Newell McElwee, PharmD, MSPH
Newell McElwee, PharmD, MSPH

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