Perception of quantitative information for treatment decisions

Med Decis Making. 2000 Apr-Jun;20(2):228-38. doi: 10.1177/0272989X0002000208.


The study was designed to determine which formats for displaying quantities, such as probabilities of treatment risks and benefits, are perceived most accurately and easily by patients. Accuracy and speed of processing were compared for six different presentation formats: pie charts, vertical bars, horizontal bars, numbers, systematic ovals, and random ovals. Quantities were used in two tasks: a choice task that required larger/smaller judgments and an estimate task that required more precise evaluation. The impacts of blue-yellow color and of a treatment-decision context on performance in the two tasks were also investigated. The study included four experiments. Taken together the results suggest that the formats best for making a choice differ from those best for estimating the size of an amount. For making a choice, vertical bars, horizontal bars, numbers, and systematic ovals were equally well perceived; pie charts and random ovals caused slower and less accurate performances. For estimating, numbers led to the most accurate estimates, followed by systematic ovals. The other four formats led to the least accurate estimates. Color and context did not alter which formats were best.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Display*
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Perception*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires