Gain-loss framing and patients' decisions: a linguistic examination of information framing in physician-patient conversations.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

When discussing risks and benefits with cancer patients, physicians could focus on losses such as mortality rates and cancer recurrence or, alternatively, gains such as survival rates and curing cancer. Previous research has shown that the way health information is framed influences individuals' preferences and choices. We operationalized gain-loss framing as physicians' choice of words related to gains (cancer survival), or losses (cancer mortality). In an exploratory analysis, we investigated (a) whether physicians used gain or loss words as a function of their recommendation, (b) whether physicians' choice of words was associated with patients' treatment choices. We analyzed transcribed consultations with male patients who had intermediate-risk prostate cancer. Using an iterative process of gathering and evaluating words, we created gain- and loss-dictionaries. The loss-dictionary included words related to cancer death and cancer progression. The gain-dictionary included words related to survival and cure. Using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software, we calculated the number of words related to gains and losses in each transcript. We found that physicians who recommended immediate cancer treatment for prostate cancer (vs. active surveillance) used slightly fewer words related to losses and significantly fewer words related specifically to death from cancer. Further analysis showed that loss words were associated with the patient's choice of immediate cancer treatment. A novel method of automated text analysis showed that physicians' use of loss words was correlated with physicians' recommendations for cancer treatment versus active surveillance. Additionally, loss words in consultations were associated with patients' choice of cancer treatment.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fridman, I; Fagerlin, A; Scherr, KA; Scherer, LD; Huffstetler, H; Ubel, PA

Published Date

  • February 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 44 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 38 - 52

PubMed ID

  • 32725580

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-3521

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10865-020-00171-0


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States