Despite numerous investigations of the prevalence effect on medical image perception, little research has been done to examine the effect of expertise, and its possible interaction with prevalence. In this study, medical practitioners were instructed to detect the presence of hip fracture in 50 X-ray images with either high prevalence (Nsignal = 40) or low prevalence (Nsignal = 10). Results showed that compared to novices (e.g., pediatricians, dentists, neurologists), the manipulation of prevalence shifted participant’s criteria in a different direction for experts who perform hip fracture diagnosis on a daily basis. That is, when prevalence rate is low (pfracture-present = 0.2), experts held more conservative criteria in answering “fracture-present,” whereas novices were more likely to believe there was fracture. Importantly, participants’ detection discriminability did not vary by the prevalence condition. In addition, all participants were more conservative with “fracture-present” responses when task difficulty increased. We suspect the apparent opposite criteria shift between experts and novices may have come from medical training that made novices to believe that a miss would result in larger cost compared to false positive, or because they failed to update their prior belief about the signal prevalence in the task, both would suggest that novices and experts may have different beliefs in placing the optimal strategy in the hip fracture diagnosis. Our work can contribute to medical education training as well as other applied clinical diagnosis that aims to mitigate the prevalence effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Hip fracture diagnosis
  • Medical image perception
  • Prevalence effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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