The application of the heuristic-systematic processing model to treatment decision making about prostate cancer

Med Decis Making. Nov-Dec 2004;24(6):573-83. doi: 10.1177/0272989X04271044.


The study investigated the utility of the Heuristic-Systematic Processing Model as a framework for the investigation of patient decision making. A total of 111 men recently diagnosed with localized prostate cancer were assessed using Verbal Protocol Analysis and self-report measures. Study variables included men's use of nonsystematic and systematic information processing, desire for involvement in decision making, and the individual differences of health locus of control, tolerance of ambiguity, and decision-related uncertainty. Most men (68%) preferred that decision making be shared equally between them and their doctor. Men's use of the expert opinion heuristic was related to men's verbal reports of decisional uncertainty and having a positive orientation to their doctor and medical care; a desire for greater involvement in decision making was predicted by a high internal locus of health control. Trends were observed for systematic information processing to increase when the heuristic strategy used was negatively affect laden and when men were uncertain about the probabilities for cure and side effects. There was a trend for decreased systematic processing when the expert opinion heuristic was used. Findings were consistent with the Heuristic-Systematic Processing Model and suggest that this model has utility for future research in applied decision making about health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Decision Making*
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Decision Theory*
  • Educational Status
  • Expert Testimony
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*