Original Publication
Open Access

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

Published: March 20, 2013 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9375

Included in this publication:

  • Case 1.docx
  • Case 2.docx
  • Instructor's Guide.docx
  • Lecture 1.pptx
  • Lecture 2.pptx
  • Lecture 3.pptx
  • Test.docx

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


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 resource is the implementation of multi-layered curriculum through which EM residents learn the basics of heuristic decision-making as well as the associated cognitive errors. The target audience is EM residents of all levels. The curriculum has three essential components that are complimentary to one another.  The curriculum is administered over 5 hours that are divided into three 30-minute introductory lectures, 1 hour of simulation, a written posttest, and a final 1-hour simulation.  Necessary equipment includes PowerPoint capabilities and a simulation laboratory. The curriculum has been previously used by approximately 30 emergency medicine residents ranging in PGY year from 1-3. The curriculum has been met with success and has been well-received.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module, the learner will be able to:

  1. Identify common cognitive errors.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the basics of cognitive decision theory.

Author Information

  • William F. Paolo, MD: State University of New York Upstate Medical University

None to report.

None to report.


Paolo W. Medical heuristics and cognitive decision errors: modeling thought processes through an integrative curriculum. MedEdPORTAL. 2013;9:9375. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9375