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

Publication ID Published Version
9375 March 20, 2013 1


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 Publications; 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, Decision Theory


  • Medical
    • Emergency Medicine
  • Dental
    • General Practice Residency


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

Professional Interest

  • Cognition, Human Learning & Problem Solving
  • Evaluation of Clinical Performance
  • Instructional Materials/Methods
  • Patient Safety/Medical Errors

Instructional Methods

  • Assessment
  • Case-based Instruction/Learning
  • Independent Learning
  • Tutorial

Academic Focus

  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Medical Student
  • Professional School Post-Graduate Training
    • Resident


  • Multimedia

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ISSN 2374-8265