Discursive Versus Information-Processing Perspectives on a Bioethical Problem: The Case of ‘Unrealistic’ Patient Expectations


Journal Article

This article discusses an example of how the adoption of different theoretical views of the person can have practical implications for the field of bioethics. Patients who agree to receive new medical treatments with little chance of benefit routinely report strong confidence that they will experience benefit. These ‘unrealistic’ expectations are interpreted as false beliefs about treatment, and thus as evidence that the informed consent process has failed. This interpretation of patient reports is consistent with an information-processing framework in which the patient is viewed as transmitting information that enjoys an independent existence in the mental machinery of the person. The perspective of discursive psychology, on the other hand, views the patients’ reports as activities undertaken to achieve specific aims within particular discursive contexts. It is argued that if bioethicists adopt the discursive perspective, some cases of ‘false belief’ might not pose a bioethical problem. © 2004, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Weinfurt, KP

Published Date

  • January 1, 2004

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 14 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 191 - 203

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1461-7447

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0959-3543

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0959354304042016

Citation Source

  • Scopus