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Logo of bmcphBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Public Health
BMC Public Health. 2012; 12: 759.
Published online 2012 September 10. doi:  10.1186/1471-2458-12-759
PMCID: PMC3490816

Exploring laypeople’s epistemic beliefs about medicine – a factor-analytic survey study



The aim of this study was to develop an instrument to measure laypeople’s beliefs about the nature of medical knowledge and knowing (the EBAM). Such beliefs should be a target of increased research interest because they influence how people handle medical information, for example in shared decision making.


An online survey was completed by 284 participants. Items assessed different aspects of laypeople’s epistemic beliefs about medicine and explicitly focused on the appearance of medical knowledge in everyday life and the evaluation of different sources as a way to justify knowledge.


Factor analysis yielded a five-factor solution for the instrument. Dimensions covered by the instrument are certainty of medical knowledge, credibility of medical textbooks, credibility of medical information on the Internet, justification of medical knowledge, and preliminarity of medical knowledge.


Results indicate that laypeople have meaningful beliefs about the nature of medical knowledge and the trustworthiness of different sources. The instrument developed seems promising for measuring laypeople’s epistemic beliefs about medicine, which may help to increase patients’ compliance in medical decision making.

Articles from BMC Public Health are provided here courtesy of BioMed Central