Lucock, Mike, White, C., Peake, M.D. and Morley, S. (1998) Biased perception and recall of reassurance in medical patients. British Journal of Health Psychology, 3 (3). pp. 237-243. ISSN 1359-107X

Objectives. We tested the hypothesis that compared with patients with low health anxiety those with high health anxiety would perceive and recall reassurance given by a physician as less reassuring than the physician reported giving.
Design. A quasi-experimental repeated measures design; three time periods (immediate, one month and one year pose-consultation) in three groups of patients (total N = 50) defined by a ternary split on a questionnaire.
Methods. Patients' health anxiety was measured prior to gastroscopic investigation and consultation with a physician for unexplained symptoms. All the investigations were negative for serious pathology. Immediately after consultation the physician and patients rated the given and perceived reassurance message on a five-point scale describing the probability of there being something seriously wrong. Patients repeated their ratings at one month and one year.
Results. Patients in the high-health anxiety group were more likely to recall the reassurance given as less certain that there was nothing seriously wrong with them than were either the low or medium groups immediately pose-consultation. This difference persisted after one month but not one year later.
Conclusions. These data provide preliminary support for the hypothesis that high health anxiety may bias the perception and recall of reassurance-related information.

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