Clinical cognition and diagnostic error: applications of a dual process model of reasoning

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2009 Sep:14 Suppl 1:27-35. doi: 10.1007/s10459-009-9182-2. Epub 2009 Aug 11.


Both systemic and individual factors contribute to missed or delayed diagnoses. Among the multiple factors that impact clinical performance of the individual, the caliber of cognition is perhaps the most relevant and deserves our attention and understanding. In the last few decades, cognitive psychologists have gained substantial insights into the processes that underlie cognition, and a new, universal model of reasoning and decision making has emerged, Dual Process Theory. The theory has immediate application to medical decision making and provides an overall schema for understanding the variety of theoretical approaches that have been taken in the past. The model has important practical applications for decision making across the multiple domains of healthcare, and may be used as a template for teaching decision theory, as well as a platform for future research. Importantly, specific operating characteristics of the model explain how diagnostic failure occurs.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Decision Making*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*