The sheer volume of medical information available now through the internet is overwhelming. However, one of the main challenges for the non-medical person encountering this abundance of information is not simply the amount of medical information currently available; its that the information is not provided in any easily understood context.
Basically, we judge the importance or likelihood of something happening by the ease of bringing instances of that thing to mind. So we tend to overestimate the probability of a rare risk that is seen in a news headline, because it is so easy to imagine. Likewise, we underestimate the probability of things occurring that don't happen to be in the news. A corollary of this phenomenon is that, if we're asked to think about a series of things, we overestimate the probability of the last thing thought about because it's more easily remembered.
- cumulative data: how do these results compare to previous studies?
- experimental design: are there flaws in any or all of the studies?
- power: did they have enough test subjects to achieve statistical significance?
- data comparison: how does this risk compare to the risk of getting bitten by a shark or hit by a bus?