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Cognitive debiasing 2: impediments to and strategies for change
  1. Pat Croskerry1,
  2. Geeta Singhal2,
  3. Sílvia Mamede3
  1. 1Division of Medical Education, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  2. 2Baylor College of Medicine Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, Texas, USA
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Professor Pat Croskerry, Division of Medical Education, Dalhousie University, Clinical Research Centre, 5849 University Avenue, PO Box 15000, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 4R2; croskerry{at}


In a companion paper, we proposed that cognitive debiasing is a skill essential in developing sound clinical reasoning to mitigate the incidence of diagnostic failure. We reviewed the origins of cognitive biases and some proposed mechanisms for how debiasing processes might work. In this paper, we first outline a general schema of how cognitive change occurs and the constraints that may apply. We review a variety of individual factors, many of them biases themselves, which may be impediments to change. We then examine the major strategies that have been developed in the social sciences and in medicine to achieve cognitive and affective debiasing, including the important concept of forcing functions. The abundance and rich variety of approaches that exist in the literature and in individual clinical domains illustrate the difficulties inherent in achieving cognitive change, and also the need for such interventions. Ongoing cognitive debiasing is arguably the most important feature of the critical thinker and the well-calibrated mind. We outline three groups of suggested interventions going forward: educational strategies, workplace strategies and forcing functions. We stress the importance of ambient and contextual influences on the quality of individual decision making and the need to address factors known to impair calibration of the decision maker. We also emphasise the importance of introducing these concepts and corollary development of training in critical thinking in the undergraduate level in medical education.

  • Cognitive Biases
  • Decision Making
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Patient Safety

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