The future in clinical genetics: affective forecasting biases in patient and clinician decision making


  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


When clinicians facilitate and patients make decisions about predictive genetic testing, they often base their choices on the predicted emotional consequences of positive and negative test results. Research from psychology and decision making suggests that such predictions may often be biased. Work on affective forecasting—predicting one's future emotional states—shows that people tend to overestimate the impact of (especially negative) emotional events on their well-being; a phenomenon termed the impact bias. In this article, we review the causes and consequences of the impact bias in medical decision making, with a focus on applying such findings to predictive testing in clinical genetics. We also recommend strategies for reducing the impact bias and consider the ethical and practical implications of doing so.