"Wow, this is an era of self-diagnosis," thought Arizona State University psychologist Virginia Kwan, learning that statistic. How might information accessed online affect individual health decisions?
Kwan and colleagues found that the way information is presented-specifically, the order in which symptoms are listed-makes a significant difference, the journal Psychological Science reported.
"People irrationally infer more meanings from a 'streak'"- an uninterrupted series whether of high rolls of the dice or disease symptoms of consecutively reported symptoms. If they check off more symptoms in a row, the research found, "they perceive a higher personal risk of having that illness," said Kwan, according to a university statement.
The findings could prove useful for public health education, Kwan said: "With certain types of illnesses, people tend to seek medical attention at the latest stage."
Meanwhile, "People also go to doctors asking all the time about illnesses that are very rare," added Kwan.