Exploring laypeople’s epistemic beliefs about medicine – a factor-analytic survey study
Department of Psychology, University of Muenster, Fliednerstrasse 21, Muenster, 49149, Germany
BMC Public Health 2012, 12:759 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-759Published: 10 September 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.