Perceptual strategies to improve skin cancer discriminations in naïve observers

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Brooks, A, van der Zwan, R & Predebon, J 2001, ‘Perceptual strategies to improve skin cancer discriminations in naïve observers’, Public Health, vol. 115, no. 2, pp. 139-145.

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The aim of these experiments was to assess the effect of an educational brochure on the ability of naive observers to discriminate skin cancers from benign lesions, and to investigate possible new strategies to assist observers in performing this task. A two-alternative forced choice paradigm was used to investigate the ability of observers to correctly identify different types of benign and malignant lesions before and after exposure to an educational brochure. The method of pair comparisons was used to assess the ability of observers to discriminate between benign and malignant lesions under different instruction conditions. Subjects were undergraduate students from Sydney University. An educational brochure did not facilitate the ability to correctly identify malignant lesions, and appeared to result in deterioration of performance in the identification of benign lesions. Similarly, observers were unable to discriminate between benign and malignant lesions on the basis of how dangerous they looked. However, judgements of lesions in terms of perceived distinctiveness resulted in relatively accurate discriminations between benign and malignant lesions. These data suggest current skin cancer detection strategies may be ineffective in improving the ability to visually identify benign and malignant lesions. Discriminating between lesions in terms of how distinctive they appear may form the basis of a new and effective strategy for the detection of skin cancer.

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