Objective numeracy appears to support better medical decisions and health outcomes. The more numerate generally understand and use numbers more and make better medical decisions, including more informed medical choices. Numeric self-efficacy—an aspect of subjective numeracy that is also known as numeric confidence—also relates to decision making via emotional reactions to and inferences from experienced difficulty with numbers and via persistence linked with numeric comprehension and healthier behaviors over time. Furthermore, it moderates the effects of objective numeracy on medical outcomes.
We briefly review the numeracy and decision-making literature and then summarize more recent literature on 3 separable effects of numeric self-efficacy. Although dual-process theories can account for the generally superior decision making of the highly numerate, they have neglected effects of numeric self-efficacy. We discuss implications for medical decision-making (MDM) research and practice. Finally, we propose a modification to dual-process theories, adding a “motivational mind” to integrate the effects of numeric self-efficacy on decision-making processes (i.e., inferences from experienced difficulty with numbers, greater persistence, and greater use of objective-numeracy skills) important to high-quality MDM.
The power of numeric self-efficacy (confidence) has been little considered in MDM, but many medical decisions and behaviors require persistence to be successful over timemore »
Research demonstrates that objective numeracy supports better medical decisions and health outcomes. The power of numeric self-efficacy (aka numeric confidence) has been little considered but appears critical to emotional reactions and inferences that patients and others make when encountering numeric information (e.g., in decision aids) and to greater persistence in medical decision-making tasks involving numbers. The present article proposes a novel modification to dual-process theory to account for newer findings and to describe how numeracy mechanisms can be better understood. Because being able to adapt interventions to improve medical decisions depends in part on having a good theory, future research should incorporate numeric self-efficacy into medical decision-making theories and interventions.