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Studies of the Diagnostic Process: The Influence of Symptom Perception, Past Experience, and Ethnic Background on Diagnostic Decisions
Am J Psychiatry 1969;125:937-947.
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Chief, Clinical Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, 5454 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, Md. 20203

Superintendent, Boston State Hospital, Boston, Mass.

Reseach psychologist, Psychopharmacology Research Branch

1968-69, American Psychiatric Association

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To investigate the conceptual base and the factors influencing the process and current practice of psychiatric diagnosis, the authors designed six studies. Clinicians were asked to view a film of a patient interview, rate the patient on a standard set of symptom rating scales, assign a diagnosis, and answer some questions about their backgrounds and specific approach to the diagnostic decision about the case. The results suggest that disagreements among clinicians may be due to actual differences in their perceptions of certain kinds of pathology rather than to semantic preference. Suggestions are offered for methodological and technical improvements in future research in this area.

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