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Open Access Research article

Exploring laypeople’s epistemic beliefs about medicine – a factor-analytic survey study

Dorothe Kienhues* and Rainer Bromme

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychology, University of Muenster, Fliednerstrasse 21, Muenster, 49149, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:759  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-759

Published: 10 September 2012

Abstract

Background

The aim of this study was to develop an instrument to measure laypeople’s beliefs about the nature of medical knowledge and knowing (the EBAM). Such beliefs should be a target of increased research interest because they influence how people handle medical information, for example in shared decision making.

Methods

An online survey was completed by 284 participants. Items assessed different aspects of laypeople’s epistemic beliefs about medicine and explicitly focused on the appearance of medical knowledge in everyday life and the evaluation of different sources as a way to justify knowledge.

Results

Factor analysis yielded a five-factor solution for the instrument. Dimensions covered by the instrument are certainty of medical knowledge, credibility of medical textbooks, credibility of medical information on the Internet, justification of medical knowledge, and preliminarity of medical knowledge.

Conclusions

Results indicate that laypeople have meaningful beliefs about the nature of medical knowledge and the trustworthiness of different sources. The instrument developed seems promising for measuring laypeople’s epistemic beliefs about medicine, which may help to increase patients’ compliance in medical decision making.