Focusing on next 10 years could lead to better use of recommendations for cancer screening
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When the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) changed their recommendation for breast cancer and cervical cancer screening from every year to every three years, many doctors and patients were reluctant to follow the new guidelines. They shared stories and personal experiences that seemed to conflict with this advice, urging their friends and colleagues to keep getting screened every year. Why do people ignore evidence-based recommendations in favor of personal stories, and can they be persuaded to listen to evidence instead?

New findings from a preregistered study suggest that asking people to set up a long-term screening schedule may help them follow evidence based recommendations, rather than personal stories. The results appear in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

“Even though many people think that it’s probably a good idea to follow evidence-based guidelines when making medical decisions, our human minds sometimes have a hard time weighing these guidelines as much as we should–especially when we hear a vivid anecdote,” says lead author Alison Ledgerwood (University of California, Davis). “In this study, we tried to leverage the idea that people are better at relying on general guidelines–rather than vivid,

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