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As predictive tests for medical problems such as genetic disorders become more widely available, it becomes increasingly important to understand the processes involved in the decision whether or not to seek testing. This study investigates the decision to pursue the possibility of testing. Individuals (one group who had already contemplated the possibility of predictive testing and one group who had not) were asked to consider predictive testing for several diseases. They rated the likelihood of opting for testing and specified the reasons which they believed had affected their decision. The ratio of the numbers of reasons stated for testing and the numbers of reasons stated against testing was a good predictor of the stated likelihood of testing, particularly when the reasons were weighted by utility (importance). Those who had previously contemplated testing specified more emotional reasons. It is proposed that the decision process is internally logical although it may seem illogical to others due to there being idiosyncratic premises (or reasons) upon which the decision is based. It is concluded that the Utility Theory is a useful basis for describing how people make decisions related to predictive testing; modifications of the theory are proposed.

Original publication




Journal article


Behaviour Research and Therapy

Publication Date





599 - 619