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Physicians told to embrace ambiguity

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A new book, Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing,  by Jamie Holmes, proposes that physicians would do well to make themselves more comfortable with ambiguity.

“Psychologists have shown that there is a fundamental tension between the ubiquity of ambiguity and our natural preference for definite answers. Misunderstanding that tension and putting too much faith in tests to resolve ambiguity, it turns out, is one cause of medical overtesting,” reads an essay in Slate adapted from the book.

His remarks add to  other studies that support the idea that we need more gray thinking in medicine.

Mr. Holmes has written that rather than placing  such confidence in scans, tests and imaging, physicians should shift  more of their focus to talking with and observing closely the patients  themselves — in all their full personhoods.

“New ways of seeing aren’t necessarily clearer ways of seeing, and sometimes, the illusion of knowing is more dangerous than not knowing at all,” he wrote.

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