, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 419-432
Date: 01 May 2007

Information Processing in the Context of Genetic Risk: Implications for Genetic-Risk Communication

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Communicating genetic-risk information is fraught with difficulties, and there are no universally accepted guidelines for clinical practice. In this paper, we suggest that information-processing models may offer some guidance for the communication of genetic risk. The paper reviews selected literature from health and social psychology, including defensive reactions to threatening health information, the Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM) and Self Affirmation Theory. Ultimately, it presents the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM) of information processing as a useful perspective from which to view genetic-risk communication. Through our review of this literature, we identify some of the variables found to influence the systematic or heuristic processing of risk information and note their relevance to genetic counseling contexts. We suggest that systematic information processing is conducive to informed decision-making, as well as improved understanding of risk information. Clinical practice implications derived from our review of these literatures are noted.