Clinical Judgmental Biases: The Moderating Roles of Counselor Cognitive Complexity and Counselor Client Preferences

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Abstract

This study found that counselor individual differences in cognitive complexity, but not preferences for client problems, moderate the cognitive processes that lead to bias in clinical judgment. A particularly robust and unambiguous clinical bias, known as diagnostic overshadowing (S. Reiss, G. W. Levitan, & J. Szysko, 1982), was selected for study. Consistent with behavior decision (R. Nisbett & L. Ross, 1980) and complexity theories (J. Bieri, A. L. Atkins, S. Briar, R. L. Leaman, H. Miller, & T. Tripodi, 1966), counseling psychologists with lower cognitive complexity were more likely to form biased clinical judgments than were counseling psychologists with higher cognitive complexity (N = 119). Implications of the significant and nonsignificant results for research in clinical judgment and for counselor education and practice are discussed.

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