Avoidance or vigilance? The psychology of false-positive test results

Published

Journal Article

The influence of false-positive results on consumers' decisions to get retested in high-stakes domains is examined. Findings across four laboratory experiments indicate that a false-positive outcome increases perceptions of vulnerability and test inaccuracy, even holding constant test-error base rates. Increased perceived vulnerability appears to be directly related to the testing event, as the effects are not replicated by simply asking subjects to imagine having the malady. The findings also show that a false-positive result increases planned compliance if there are poor alternatives to testing or if the value of test-initiated treatment is high but does not affect compliance if good testing alternatives are available or the treatment value is low. Using a pooled analysis across multiple studies, the results of a false-positive outcome on compliance are shown to be partially mediated by changes in perceived vulnerability and test inaccuracy. Public-policy implications regarding individual decision behavior and professional test administration are discussed.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Luce, MF; Kahn, BE

Published Date

  • January 1, 1999

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 26 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 242 - 259

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0093-5301

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1086/209561

Citation Source

  • Scopus