Practicing Medicine with Colleagues: Pitfalls from Social Psychology Science
This perspective reviews three pitfalls from psychology science that can distort clinical assessments and contribute to interpersonal conflicts. One pitfall is the illusion that one’s own subjective perceptions or judgments are objective observations or interpretations that reasonable colleagues would share. A second pitfall involves self-serving situational attributions rather than disposition attributions for explaining missteps after things go wrong. A third pitfall is confirmation bias that leads to a perseverance of erroneous beliefs, a tendency to mostly seek supportive colleagues, and a failure to check for dissenting viewpoints. An awareness of these three pitfalls may help clinicians improve patient care when practicing with colleagues.
KEY WORDSmedical error fallible reasoning judgment and decisions illusion of objectivity situational factors confirmation bias
We thank the following for helpful comments: Arnie Aberman, Allan Detsky, Andrew Lustig, Barry McLellan, Raffi Rush, Fizza Manzoor, Camille Schull, Gillian Spiegle, and Christopher Yarnell.
This project was supported by the Canada Research Chair in Medical Decision Sciences, the BrightFocus Foundation, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.
- 2.Gilovich T, Ross L. The wisest in the room. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.Google Scholar
- 3.Gilovich T, Keltner D, Chen S, Nisbett RE. Social psychology [4th edition]. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 2016.Google Scholar
- 4.Redelmeier DA, Cialdini RB. Problems for clinical judgement: 5. Principles of influence in medical practice. CMAJ 2002;166(13):1680–4.Google Scholar
- 8.Jones EE, Nisbett RE. The actor and the observer: Divergent perceptions of the causes of behavior. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press, 1971.Google Scholar
- 12.Ross L, Nisbett RE. The person and the situation: perspectives of social psychology. London: McGraw-Hill, 2011.Google Scholar
- 17.Redelmeier DA, Ferris LE, Tu JV, Hux JE, Schull MJ. Problems for clinical judgement: introducing cognitive psychology as one more basic science. CMAJ 2001;164(3):358–60.Google Scholar