Medical Heuristics and Cognitive Decision Errors: Modeling Thought Processes Through an Integrative Curriculum

Format Publication ID Version Published
Exam (Clinical Performance), Exam (Oral), Multimedia, Case 9375 1 March 20, 2013
State University of New York Upstate Medical University


Emergency medicine (EM) residents are forced to make patient care decisions based upon incomplete probabilistic information and prior experience. Heuristics are a useful cognitive tool via which limited information is processed and cognitive solutions are rapidly identified. However, the inappropriate unconscious dependence on these cognitive shortcuts often leads to decision errors due to the inability to recognize the biasing influence of mental processing. The goal of this educational project is the implementation of multi-layered curriculum via which EM residents will learn the basics of heuristic decision-making as well as the associated cognitive errors. The target audience is EM residents of all levels. Necessary equipment includes PowerPoint capabilities and a simulation laboratory.


Paolo W. Medical Heuristics and Cognitive Decision Errors: Modeling Thought Processes Through an Integrative Curriculum . MedEdPORTAL; 2013. Available from:

Educational Objectives

The purpose of this curriculum is the education of emergency medicine residents in both the basics of cognitive learning theory and decision errors. By the end of the curriculum the learner will be able to identify common cognitive errors as well as demonstrate an understanding of the basics of cognitive decision theory.


  • Heuristics, Cognition (MeSH), Emergency Medicine (MeSH), Residents


  • Medical
    • Emergency Medicine


  • Dental
    • General Practice Residency

Competencies Addressed

  • Medical
    • Patient Care
    • Practice-based Learning & Improvement
    • Systems-based Practice

Academic Focus

  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Professional Interest

  • Cognition, Human Learning & Problem Solving

Organ Systems

  • Cardiovascular system
  • Respiratory system

Intended Audience

  • Professional School Post-Graduate Training
    • Resident

Instructional Methods

  • Assessment
    • Clinical Reasoning
    • Critical Thinking

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