Major organizations recommend presenting medical test results in terms of natural frequencies, rather than single-event probabilities. The evidence, however, is that natural frequency presentations benefit at most one-fifth of samples of health service users and patients. Only one study reported a substantial benefit of these presentations. Here, we replicate that study, testing online survey respondents. Study 1 attributed the previously reported benefit of natural frequencies to a scoring artifact. Study 2 showed that natural frequencies may elicit evaluations that conflict with the normatively correct one, potentially hindering informed decision making. Ironically, these evaluations occurred less often when respondents reasoned about single-event probabilities. These results suggest caution in promoting natural frequencies as the best way to communicate medical test data to health service users and patients.
Keywords: diagnostic reasoning, numeracy; natural frequencies; single-event probability; test result understanding.
© The Author(s) 2016.