A Dual Processing Theory Based Approach to Instruction and Assessment of Diagnostic Competencies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Evidence suggests that diagnostic error plays a major role in America’s suboptimal patient care. Evidence also suggests that generalizable problem solving or clinical reasoning skills are not the primary determinant of diagnostic accuracy. Rather, knowledge-based constructs likely play a greater role in diagnostic performance. Dual processing theory (DPT) posits how knowledge-based constructs and information processing (problem solving or reasoning) mechanisms work together to enable categorization tasks such as differential diagnosis. This manuscript describes how medical educators might use DPT to create training and testing methods to improve the diagnostic capabilities of tomorrow’s practitioners and subsequently patient care outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-795
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Science Educator
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016



  • Best evidence based medical education
  • Clinical problem solving
  • Clinical reasoning
  • Diagnostic reasoning
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Dual processing theory
  • Learning sciences
  • Medical education

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