Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 419–432 | Cite as

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

  • Holly EtchegaryEmail author
  • Colin Perrier
Original Paper

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.


genetic-risk communication information-processing heuristic systematic risk perception genetic testing 



During the writing of this article, the first author was supported by a Postdoctoral fellowship from the GeneSens research group, Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine and the Gap Santé research group, National Institute of Population Health, both at the University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON. We are indebted to the editor and reviewers for their excellent comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology & Community MedicineSchool of Psychology, University of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBrock UniversitySt. CatherinesCanada
  3. 3.Holly Etchegary, Epidemiology & Community MedicineFaculty of Medicine, GeneSens research group; and School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, GAP-Santé Research Group, University of OttawaOttawaCanada

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