Public Knowledge About Electroconvulsive Therapy: A Demographically Stratified Investigation

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Abstract

The present study measured factual knowledge about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in a demographically stratified sample of the general public. Participants (n = 200) completed a 31-item true–false test regarding indications, procedures, and effects of ECT, rating their confidence in each answer on a 5-point Likert scale. The correlation between years of education and proportion of correct answers was significant. Proportion of correct answers and mean confidence did not differ by age or gender, but data suggest that misconceptions about ECT may be more prevalent among African-Americans than among Caucasian participants. Common misconceptions in the entire sample included that ECT is curative, ECT is painful, nausea and vomiting are problems commonly associated with ECT, and seizure induction is not an expected effect. Overall, participants indicated a low degree of confidence in their responses. Although participants answered dichotomous choice questions with a fair degree of accuracy, participants' low confidence in their answers suggests that ECT remains poorly understood. The paper concludes with general and specific suggestions made to improve public understanding of ECT.

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