Tay Gavin Erickson Lecture Series -- The way in which information is represented can have implications for understanding. Focusing on health risk communications, Dr. McDowell will illustrate how non-transparent statistical formats can impede understanding and mislead the public, doctors, and other health professionals about the benefits and harms of health interventions. McDowell will present research showing the level of statistical illiteracy in public and professional audiences, highlight the consequences of misleading information representations on knowledge and health behavior, and discuss reasons why such formats continue to be used. Importantly, the talk will present simple strategies for improving the transparency of risk communications, such as using absolute versus relative risk ratios, and illustrate how to improve Bayesian reasoning by presenting information in natural frequencies as opposed to conditional probabilities.
Michelle McDowell, PhD is a Research Scientist with the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. Her research focuses on developing transparent risk communication formats to promote statistical literacy. Her recent work has focused on the visual communication of information and exploring how information represented in more or less ecological formats can affect understanding. She works closely with health organizations to promote and design effective risk communication tools and to better understand how people make health decisions.
This lecture is sponsored by the Center for Research on Families’ Tay Gavin Erickson Lecture Series. The Center for Research on Families (CRF) is an endowed interdisciplinary research center in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Tay Gavin Erickson Lecture Series brings internationally recognized speakers with expertise in family research to campus each year. The lecture series began in 1999 through an endowment established in memory of Tay Gavin Erickson.