Information and anxiety: a critical reappraisal


  • Kevin Teasdale MA(Oxon) RMN Cert Ed

    Corresponding author
    1. Director of In-Service Training, Mid Trent College of Nursing and Midwifery, Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Lincolnshire, England
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Kevin Teasdale, Albion House, 15 Church Street Heckington Lincolnshire NG34 9RF England


A series of British and North American research studies into information-giving and the relief of patient anxiety is reviewed The research results are inconsistent and the theory that information relieves anxiety in hospitalized patients appears to be an oversimplification It is argued that ‘information’ is conventionally viewed as a neutral and objective entity which can be transmitted to patients in semantic form through language However, recent advances in the philosophy of language suggest that human communication depends less on the decoding of semantic information than upon the inferences which recipients draw from context Communication, therefore, becomes a problem-solving process in which communicators selectively present what they know in order to induce recipients to infer the intended meanings This inferential model of communication provides a theoretical basis from which research studies can be reappraised Viewed from an inferential perspective, the results suggest that patient anxiety can be relieved more reliably by the use of re-framing and empowering interventions than by the presentation of information in a neutral way with no direct attempt to influence the inferences which patients may make