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ABSTRACT: Medical education and cognitive continuum theory: an alternative perspective on medical problem solving and clinical reasoning

Recently, human reasoning, problem solving, and decision making have been viewed as products of two separate systems: “System 1,” the unconscious, intuitive, or nonanalytic system, and “System 2,” the conscious, analytic, or reflective system. This view has penetrated the medical education literature, yet the idea of two independent dichotomous cognitive systems is not entirely without problems.This article outlines the difficulties of this “two-system view” and presents an alternative, developed by K.R. Hammond and colleagues, called cognitive continuum theory (CCT). CCT is featured by three key assumptions. First, human reasoning, problem solving, and decision making can be arranged on a cognitive continuum, with pure intuition at one end, pure analysis at the other, and a large middle ground called “quasirationality.” Second, the nature and requirements of the cognitive task, as perceived by the person performing the task, determine to a large extent whether a task will be approached more intuitively or more analytically. Third, for optimal task performance, this approach needs to match the cognitive properties and requirements of the task. Finally, the author makes a case that CCT is better able than a two-system view to describe medical problem solving and clinical reasoning and that it provides clear clues for how to organize training in clinical reasoning.

via Medical education and cognitive continuum theory: a… [Acad Med. 2013] – PubMed – NCBI.

Brian S McGowan, PhD

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Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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