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Cummings, L (2014)
Publisher: W.B. Saunders Co. Ltd.
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects:
The observation that experts and lay people use cognitive shortcuts or heuristics to arrive at judgements about complex problems is certainly not new. But what is new is the finding that a group of reasoning strategies, which have been maligned by philosophers and logicians alike, have demonstrable value in helping members of the public come to a judgement about public health problems. These problems, which span food safety crises, immunization scares and risks associated with exposure to environmental toxins, presuppose knowledge and expertise which falls outside of the epistemic and technical competence of most members of the public. Notwithstanding the complexity of these problems, they are not perceived by lay people to be wholly unintelligible or incomprehensible. This short communication reports on the findings of a questionnaire-based investigation into the use of these reasoning strategies by 879 members of the public. The results reveal a rational competence on the part of lay people which has been hitherto unexamined, and which may be usefully exploited in all aspects of public health work.
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