Incorporating Base Rate Information in Daily Clinical Decision Making

Stephen E. Finn

in Oxford Handbook of Personality Assessment

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195366877
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Incorporating Base Rate Information in Daily Clinical Decision Making

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What are your chances of being hit by lightning? Of winning the lottery? Of developing schizophrenia? The probabilities of these events, usually expressed in a percentage, are called base rates. Base rates are often calculated in clinical settings. They have important implications for a wide variety of issues in clinical practice. Although sometimes overlooked, base rates affect the prediction of behaviors (for example, suicide), the interpretation of test data (for example, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 scores), and decision making regarding diagnosis. This article discusses the need for practitioners to consider the relative frequency of phenomena (base rates) in particular clinical settings in order to make diagnoses and interpret psychological test scores appropriately. First, it explains what base rates are, and then discusses base rates and predictive power, implications of base rates for clinical practice and test use, and how to use base rates in daily clinical decision making.

Keywords: base rates; clinical decision making; clinical practice; prediction; diagnosis; psychological test; predictive power

Article.  7457 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Psychological Assessment and Testing

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