Ratios in Health Reasoning

We are inundated with ratios, like fractions, decimals and percentages, and everyday life that should help us make informed decisions about what to do, how, and when.

This has been highlighted for many of us during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – how can we reason about how severe COVID is? Perhaps by thinking about % mortality rate or hospitalization rate. How can we decide whether our communities, workplaces, or schools are “safe”? Perhaps by reasoning about % positivity rates or % vaccination rates.

In a series of studies with Drs. Clarissa Thompson, Jen Taber, Karin Coifman, Percival Matthews and many other fantastic collaborators, I have been examining how math cognition bears on issues of health reasoning.

Here’s a link to our popular press article published at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: https://theconversation.com/math-misconceptions-may-lead-people-to-underestimate-the-true-threat-of-covid-19-134520

And here are citations for SO MANY PAPERS this awesome group has pushed out about math reasoning during the pandemic (more to come!) Go “team science”!!

Fitzsimmons, C.F., Sidney, P.G., Mielicki, M. , Schiller, L.K., Scheibe, D. +, Taber, J.M., Matthews, P.G., Waters, E.A., Coifman, K.G., & Thompson, C.A. (2023). Worked examples and number lines improve adults’ understanding of health risks as ratios. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. DOI: 10.1037/mac0000120.

Fitzsimmons, C.F., Woodbury, L. *, Taber, J.T., Mielicki, M., Sidney, P.G., Coifman, K.G., & Thompson, C.A. (2023). How do visual displays impact health-risk estimates? It depends on display size, shape, and prior knowledge. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 36(5), e234. DOI: 10.1002/bdm.2341

Mielicki, M.K., Fitzsimmons, C.J. +, Schiller, L., Scheibe, D. +, Taber, J.M., Sidney, P.G., Matthews, P.G., Waters, E.A., Coifman, K., & Thompson, C.A. (2022). Adults’ COVID-19 problem solving is facilitated by number lines. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Applied.

Taber, J. M., Updegraff, J. A., Sidney, P. G., O’Brien, A. G. +, & Thompson, C. A. (2023). Experimental tests of how hypothetical monetary lottery incentives influence vaccine-hesitant U.S. adults’ intentions to vaccinate. Health Psychology.

Scheibe, D. A. +, Fitzsimmons, C. J. +, Mielicki, M. K., Taber, M. J., Sidney, P. G., Coifman, K., & Thompson, C. A. (2022). Confidence in COVID problem solving: What factors predict adults’ item-level metacognitive judgments on health-related math problems before and after an educational intervention? Metacognition and Learning.

Thompson, C.A., Mielicki, M.K., Rivera, F., Fitzsimmons, C.J. +, Scheibe, D.A. +, Sidney, P.G., Taber, J.M., & Waters, E.A. (2022). Leveraging math cognition to combat health innumeracy. Perspectives in Psychological Science.

Thompson, C. A., Taber, J. M., Sidney, P. G. et al. (2022). Math matters during a pandemic: A novel, brief educational intervention combats whole number bias to improve health decision-making and predicts COVID-19 risk perceptions and worry across 10 days. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 27(4), 632-656. DOI: 10.1037/xap0000403

And one from a pre-pandemic study back when we were more focused on cancer stats (which we are now returning to):

Thompson, C. A., Taber, J. M., Fitzsimmons, C. +, & Sidney, P. G. (2021). Strategy reports involving attention to math are associated with accurate responses on a numeric health decision-making problem. Journal of Numerical Cognition, 7(2), 221-239.

What’s coming next for us?

How did adults interpret COVID-related graphs from the media? How does that relate to their graph literacy and other factors? Did parents reason differently about COVID-related statistics than non-parents?

And more!