Background. There is no generally accepted psychological understanding of how a doctor’s representation of risk and uncertainty affects professional medical decision-making. The concept of a Unified Intellectual and Personal Potential can serve as a framework to explain its multiple and multilevel regulation. Our objective was to research the connections between medics’ perceptions of risk and related personal factors.
Design. Medical doctors were compared to different control groups to identify their personal and motivational characteristics in three studies.
Study 1 assessed the motivational profile of doctors (using Edwards Personal Preference Schedule) in connection with their risk-readiness and rationality (measured by the Personal Factors of Decision-making questionnaire, also known as LFR) in a sample of 33 doctors, as compared to 35 paramedics and 33 detectives.
Study 2 compared 125 medical students and 182 non-medical students to 65 doctors as to the levels of their risk perception (measured by Implicit Theories of Risk questionnaire, the LFR, and their direct self-esteem of riskiness ), tolerance for uncertainty (measured by Budner's questionnaire), and rating on the Big-Five personality traits (TIPI).
Study 3 presented two new methods of risk perception assessment and investigated the connection between personality traits, risk reduction strategies, and cognitive representations of risk in 66 doctors, as compared to 44 realtors.
Results. Study 1 found differences between the doctors’, paramedics’, and investigators’ motivational profiles. The doctors’ motivations were not associated with conscious self-regulation. In Study 2, risk-readiness was positively related to tolerance for uncertainty (TU) and the self-esteem of riskiness. The latter was significantly lower in doctors compared to the student groups and had different relationships with personality variables. In Study 3, doctors differed from realtors not only in their traits (i.e.,being less willing to take risks), but also in their choices and greater integration of their risk representations.
Conclusions. The three studies demonstrated the multilevel processes behind the willingness to take risks and risk acceptance, as well as the relationship between the multilevel personality traits and doctors’ assessments of medical risks and their preferences in risky decision-making.
1. The “self-esteem of riskiness” refers to an individual’s self-esteem in light of their willingness to take risks. This formulation will be used throughout this article, as to constantly elaborate its meaning would be too unwieldy.
Keywords: decision-making (DM); risk representation; risk-readiness; implicit theories (IT); Implicit Theories of Risk (ITR); self-esteem of riskiness; tolerance for uncertainty (TU); Big Five