Tag Archives: Alternative

Is “A” Really the Best Option or is it Just that It’s Better Than “B”: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 18

The other day, someone was talking to me about my series on biases in judgment and decision-making and it made me realize that I was missing a rather important bias — the contrast effect! I’m not sure how this one slipped through the cracks, but I’m glad to be able to write about it for you today.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I wrote something for this series, so let me refresh your memory. Each week, I took a cognitive bias and explained it. I provided an example and then I offered some ways for mitigating that cognitive bias in your own life. So, without further adieu, the contrast effect.

What’s the contrast effect? Well, as with many of the biases, it’s exactly what it sounds like: an effect that occurs because of a comparison. That is, people are more likely to perceive differences that are bigger or smaller because of something they’ve seen first. This is something that is used in sales — all — the — time. If you’re shopping for a new car, the salesperson may show a series of cars that are way out of your price range and then show you one that’s just a little out of your price range. After having seen so many cars that are way out of your price range, the one that’s just a little out of your price range won’t seem that far out of your price range. The contrast effect.

That’s not to pick on folks who sell cars, it can even happen with smaller purchases, shoes, for instances. Let’s say you’re looking for a particular kind of footwear. The salesperson may show you a bunch of shoes that don’t quite fit your needs and happen to be priced rather cheaply. Then, the salesperson shows you a shoe that does fit your needs, but is quite a bit more expensive. As you’ve seen all these shoes that aren’t what you need and now you’ve finally come to one that meets you’re needs, you may ignore the price and buy the shoes.

One of my favourite examples of the contrast effect comes from Dan Ariely‘s book, Predictably Irrational:

One day while browsing the World Wide Web (obviously for work-not just wasting time), I stumbled on the following ad, on the Web site of a magazine, the Economist.

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I read these offers one at a time. The first offer-the Internet subscription for $59 seemed reasonable. The second option-the $125 print subscription-seemed a bit expensive, but still reasonable.

But then I read the third option: a print and Internet subscription for $125. I read it twice before my eye ran back to the previous options. Who would want to buy the print option alone, I wondered, when both the Internet and the print subscriptions were offered for the same price? Now, the print- only option may have been a typographical error, but I suspect that the clever people at the Economist‘s London offices (and they are clever-and quite mischievous in a British sort of way) were actually manipulating me. I am pretty certain that they wanted me to skip the Internet- only option (which they assumed would be my choice, since I was reading the advertisement on the Web) and jump to the more expensive option: Internet and print.

But how could they manipulate me? I suspect it’s because the Economist‘s marketing wizards (and I could just picture them in their school ties and blazers) knew something important about human behavior: humans rarely choose things in absolute terms. We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth. Rather, we focus on the relative advantage of one thing over another, and estimate value accordingly. (For instance, we don’t know how much a six- cylinder car is worth, but we can assume it’s more expensive than the four- cylinder model.)

In the case of the Economist, I may not have known whether the Internet- only subscription at $59 was a better deal than the print- only option at $125. But I certainly knew that the print and-Internet option for $125 was better than the print- only option at $125. In fact, you could reasonably deduce that in the combination package, the Internet subscription is free! “It’s a bloody steal-go for it, governor!” I could almost hear them shout from the riverbanks of the Thames. And I have to admit; if I had been inclined to subscribe I probably would have taken the package deal myself. (Later, when I tested the offer on a large number of participants, the vast majority preferred the Internet- and- print deal.)

Before we movie into some of the ways for avoiding the Contrast Effect, I wanted to make it clear that sales isn’t the only place where this bias can creep up on us. Another good example is in evaluations (be they interviewing job candidates or marking term papers). If one doesn’t have a rubric by which one is scoring candidates (or papers), it can be easy to slip into the contrast effect: “Well, that candidate was much better than the last candidate, let’s put them through to the next round.” It could be that the latter candidate, while better than the first, still doesn’t meet your criteria to make it the next round, so putting them through would be wasting valuable resources — both yours and theirs.

Ways for Avoiding the Contrast Effect

1) Standardized Evaluation

In our most recent case involving interview candidates or term papers, creating a rubric or standardized method of evaluation prior to examining candidates/papers will go a long way to help one avoid falling into the trap of the contrast effect. This method could also be applied when it comes to shopping (i.e. sales). For instance, let’s say you’re looking for a car. Prior to arriving at the dealership, you could create a table for how you’re going to evaluate the cars you view while at the dealership. In this way, you can guard against the salesperson knowingly (or unknowingly) showing you cars at either end of the spectrum before showing you the cars you might actually purchase.

2) Are There Other Options?

Often times, when we’re succumbing to the contrast effect, we’re looking at option A versus option B. This is why it’s so important to have some sort of standardized evaluation (see #1), but short of a standardized evaluation, it’s important to remember that almost never are those two options your only two options. “Should I get this car or that car?” Well actually, you have another option — neither of those cars. And another option, you could consider buying a bike or maybe taking public transportation. Whenever you find yourself faced with a decision between two options, it can be useful to consider other options, just in case you’ve fallen into the trap of the contrast effect.

Note: the images in this post are all examples of the contrast effect.

If you liked this post, you might like one of the other posts in this series:

Future Implications for Fishing: A Universal Therapeutic Skill, Part 4

In the first post of this series, we looked at the idea of fishing and metaskills. In the second post, we explored the idea of fishing in the context of individual therapy. In yesterday’s post, we looked at this idea of fishing in the context of couples’ therapy and group therapy. In today’s post, we’ll look at implications for future research and wrap up the paper.

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Future Research

Mindfulness. Fishing can be a very important tool in the therapist’s toolbox. Since Mindell’s publication on fishing (1995), there has not been any research conducted about fishing. It is possible that what Mindell called fishing, some people call mindfulness. According to Krasner (2004), “Mindfulness-based interventions ask of the participants to consciously shift that locus of control internally . . . and apply wise attention . . . to the present moment” (p. 208). Mindfulness asks the client to be conscientious of one’s own processes and fishing is a way for the therapist to acknowledge these processes in the client. In mindfulness, the person sits with unhurried attention and notices what is happening inside them at that moment. In fishing, the therapist is sitting with unhurried attention in an effort to notice what is going on inside the client. Comparing and contrasting the mindfulness techniques to fishing could yield practical results for therapists who use either of the techniques. A study of like this could determine if it is more advantageous to be mindful solely on one’s own or if it is better when someone else (a therapist) is being mindful of one’s processes. In the next section, implications for future research on fishing within the field of transpersonal psychology are explored.

Transpersonal psychology. According to Mindell (1995), “At present there is no one unified system of techniques which all practitioners of transpersonal psychology employ” (p. 36). This can make it very difficult to categorize the techniques used by transpersonal psychologists who have a private practice of therapy. As stated by Hammer (1974), “Transpersonal psychotherapy concerns itself, ultimately, with helping consciousness transcend its identification with the various limiting and relative self-defined personal labels, concepts or images which comprise the apparent and illusional ego and awaken to itself” (p. 202). Given that there are conflicting viewpoints, it would be essential to conduct a study to discern the techniques that are the more effective techniques used in transpersonal psychotherapy. After having witnessed a transpersonal therapist conduct a psychodrama at a transpersonal graduate school where the technique of fishing was utilized, it would be appropriate to include fishing as one of the techniques in a study of transpersonal psychotherapy. There are many different techniques used in transpersonal psychotherapy, but it is possible that much of the techniques are derivatives of fishing. Transpersonal psychology is known for focusing on more than just the person. It includes what is beyond the person. Meaning, transpersonal psychotherapy includes the spirit in therapy. In order to be able to notice the spirit in the client, it is important for the therapist to sit with unhurried attention, much the same as a therapist using the metaskill of fishing would. In this section, there have been ties made between transpersonal psychology and fishing. In the next section, there are connections made between fishing and massage therapy.

Massage therapy. Up to this point, fishing has been referred to in the context of mainly talk therapy applications. If during therapy, the therapist notices an instance where the client’s words are not congruent with the client’s actions; this could be considered a fish. However, the concept of fishing could be applied to a discipline that is mainly a touching discipline. According to Moyer, Rounds, and Hannum (2004), “Massage therapy (MT), [is] the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being” (p. 3). Within massage therapy, the therapist does not necessarily have to speak to the client in order to administer the therapy. In most massage therapies, the client lays face down on the table, and the therapist massages their neck, shoulders, and back. It is conceivable that the therapist could go into a state of consciousness where their hands are not moving by their own will. In this state of consciousness, similar to unhurried attention, their hands could be ‘fishing’ on the client’s body. The therapist could be massaging the client in one area and have a sense to move to a specific part on the client’s body. This would be very similar to fishing. In moving to this new spot, the client’s body could give the therapist feedback telling them that this spot is a good spot to continue working with or a spot that they need to move stop working with immediately. In this section, there have been implications for how fishing could be researched further with the topics of mindfulness, transpersonal psychology, and massage therapy.

Conclusion

Initially, there was a description of metaskills and the fundamental metaskill of fishing. Within the comprehensive explanation of fishing, there were details on recognizing a fish and determining fish from non-fish by way of the feedback given from the client. There were explanations of individual therapy, couples’ therapy, and group therapy, which contained examples of how fishing is present in all three kinds of therapy. There were also areas for possible further research that tied fishing to mindfulness, transpersonal psychology, and massage therapy.

References

Aposhyan, S. (2004). Body-mind psychotherapy: Principles, techniques, and practical applications. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Bugental, J. (1987). The art of the psychotherapist. New York: W. W. Norton.

Carere-Comes, T. (2007). Bodily holding in the dialogic-dialectical approach. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 17(1), 93-110.

Doss, B. D., Thum, Y. M., Sevier, M., Atkins, D. C., & Christensen, A. (2005). Improving relationships: Mechanisms of change in couple therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(4), 624-633.

Hammer, M. (1974). The essence of personal and transpersonal psychotherapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 11(3), 202-210.

Krasner, M. (2004). Mindfulness-based intervention: A coming of age? Families, Systems, & Health, 22(2), 207-212.

Mindell, A. (1995). Metaskills: The spiritual art of therapy. Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon Publications.

Moyer, C. A., Rounds, J., & Hannum, J. W. (2004). A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychological Bulletin, 130(1), 3-18.

Oei, T. P. S., & Green, A. L. (2008). The satisfaction with therapy and therapist scale – revised (STTS-R) for group psychotherapy: Psychometric properties and confirmatory factor analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(4), 435-442.

Yalom, I. D., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy, fifth edition. New York: Basic Books.

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

Roles of a Shaman: A Brief Overview of Shamanism, Part 3

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the ways in which people become shamans. I also shared an anecdote from one of my classes where I learned that a shaman in one part of the world may be seen as someone with a disorder in another part of the world. In today’s post, we’ll look at the various roles of the shaman.

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Roles of a Shaman

The various roles in which a shaman undertakes are closely related to the cultures that one is likely to find shamanism (Walsh, 1989). This is because a shaman plays many roles for their culture. The cultures in which we are likely to find shamans are “simple nomadic hunting and gathering societies” (p. 8). In these kinds of cultures, people do not generally rely on agriculture and have very little political organization or social class. As such, the shaman is left to play many roles: “medicine man, healer, ritualist, keeper of cultural myths, medium, and master of spirits” (p. 8). Krippner (2000) stated similar roles that shamans play: “Shamans were probably humanity’s original specialists, combining the roles of healers, storytellers, weather forecasters, performing artists, ritualists, and magicians” (p. 98). Krippner (2002) added “shamans appear to have been humankind’s first psychotherapists [and] first physicians” (p. 970). References to shamans as physicians can be seen more than once in the literature. Shortly, we will liken a shaman to a ‘general practitioner.’ Krycka (2000) argued that shamanic techniques are “the bridge between ancient and allopathic approaches to healing” (p. 69). The ties between a shaman and therapy are not hard to make, as there is evidence for similarities between shamans and therapists (Stone, 2008; Voss, Douville, Solider, & Twiss, 1999; Wiseman, 1999). Because of the lack of social class, shamans usually possessed a great deal of influence on their culture (Walsh, 1989). Winkleman (1989) noted that as societies evolved into sedentary, agricultural, and social/political stratification, shamanism seems to disappear. Instead of the shaman holding all of the previous roles that they had held, specialists assume some of the roles once had.

Walsh (1989) identified a noteworthy parallel to western society in that there was a disappearance of the old medical general practitioner and an “appearance of diverse specialists” (p. 9). Walsh continued saying that priests emerge as the representatives of organized religion and are responsible for engaging with spiritual forces. “However, unlike their shamanic ancestors they usually have little training or experience in altered state” (p. 9). Walsh explained that other members of the culture assumed the various roles of the shaman except for one – journeying. Walsh referred to the suppression of owning a drum in parts of Europe during the last century as being one possible explanation to this disappearance and made reference to the discovery of the powerful states associated with various yogic and meditate practices. It is not clear as to why this role of the shaman would have seemingly vanished into the nether, while the other roles were scooped up into other specialists’ responsibilities. Given how powerful altered states of consciousness are, it is plausible that the ‘powers that be’ when forming social/political stratification decided intentionally not to include this practice in their culture for fear of losing their power. There is no substantial evidence to support this claim, but that does not negate it as a possibility. Even given the seemingly intentional forgetfulness of the people in power during the formation of the earlier cultures that did not include shamans, shamanism is still around today and used by a variety of people. According to Larson (2002), “Shamanic healing was the first mode of healing to emerge, and it still thrives today in both traditional cultures as a principal form of healing and in developed societies as an alternative form of healing” (p. 256).

Given our discussion of the ‘disappearance’ of the shaman into ‘specialists’ with the introduction of social/political stratification, there is an interesting tribe that seems to have kept a ‘number’ of shamans. According to Krippner (2002), “There are many types of shamans. For example, among the Cuna Indians of Panama, the abisua shaman heals by singing, the inaduledi specializes in herbal cures, and the nele focuses on diagnosis” (p. 963). In this tribe, it seems as though instead of splitting up the various roles of the shaman and thusly doing away with the shaman, there already were various roles in place. Krippner does not go into much detail about the Cuna Indians and there is not any (that I was able to find) academic literature on the Cuna Indians. I was only able to find that it is more politically correct to refer to them as the Kuna and this was from Wikipedia, so it may or may not be accurate.

In this section, we have explored a number of topics. We have examined the various roles that a shaman can undertake: healer (psychotherapist and physician), medicine man, magician, storyteller, weather forecaster, performing artist, master of spirits, medium, ritualist, and keeper of cultural myths. We have also explored how the shamans originally assumed many roles and then subsequently relinquished many roles. We looked at some possible reasons as to why shamanic journeying was not assumed as the role of one of the many ‘specialists’ that emerged from the shaman’s roles. We also learned of some of the different types of shamans among the Cuna Indians of Panama. In the next section, we will summarize all that we learned about shamanism.

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Check back tomorrow for the conclusion and the list of references.

The Top Ways For Avoiding Cognitive Biases: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 17

Last Monday I wrote that my cognitive bias series had come to an end. However, several of you emailed me asking for a more concise summary (as you’ll recall, the last post was over 3000 words). So, I thought I’d aggregate the most frequent suggestions of ways for avoiding cognitive biases. It’s in the same vein as a post in this series I don’t often link to: WRAP — An Acronym from Decisive.

Today, I’ve gone back through the post I wrote last week and categorized the different ways for avoiding the cognitive biases that I’ve listed. I’ll list the ways in descending order of their most frequent occurrence on the lists, along with the biases that they helped to counteract:

Alternatives (6): Sunk Cost Fallacy, Endowment Effect, Planning Fallacy, Framing Effect, Confirmation BiasThe Contrast Effect

Assumptions (5): Sunk Cost Fallacy, Framing Effect, Overconfidence Effect, Halo Effect, Functional Fixedness,

Data (5): Planning FallacyGambler’s Fallacy, Primacy/Recency Effect(s), Status Quo BiasThe Contrast Effect

Empathy (3): Endowment Effect, Framing Effect, Fundamental Attribution Error,

Big Picture (3): Loss Aversion, Fundamental Attribution ErrorThe Contrast Effect

Emotional (2): Loss Aversion, Endowment Effect,

Self-Awareness (2): Overconfidence Effect, Hindsight Bias,

Expectations (1): Loss Aversion,

As you might expect, assumptions plays a big part in our decision-making, so naturally, uncovering our assumptions (or recognizing them) is an important way for avoiding the traps of cognitive biases in decision-making. Similarly, it’s important to consider and/or develop alternatives. On an important related note, one of the most important things you’ll learn about negotiating is BATNA. This stands for: the Best Alternative to a Negotiation Agreement. Alternative. It’s also not surprising to see the frequency with which “data” appears, too. Data are a really important part of making a “cognitive bias”-free decision. I’ve written about the virtues of empathy, so I won’t review it.

Lastly, I wanted to highlight that “big picture” appeared on this list a couple of times. I was surprised that it only appeared a couple of times, but that could be a result of the way I was thinking (or my biases!) when I was writing these series. For instance, two of the categories here on this site are Perspective and Fresh Perspective. Meaning, I think it’s really important that we learn how to view things from a wider scope. “Big Picture” probably coud have fallen under “Alternatives,” but I believe there’s an important distinction. With alternatives, it’s still possible to only be considering things from a micro-level, but with the big picture, there’s a necessity for seeing things from the macro-level.

PS: Happy Canada Day!

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

21-Day Meditation Challenge: UPDATE and Research!

So — we’re into day 8 of Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge. How’s it going? Are you finding it easy to stick to meditating? Are you finding it hard? Are you noticing any benefits? Are you noticing any strange thoughts coming up? I’d love to hear about any/all of it! Let me know in the comments. If you’re finding it somewhat difficult to stick to the meditation, you might want to read about the importance of stillness and unplugging. This may (or may not) help to motivate you to stick with the meditations.

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I came across some research this past week that I thought you might find interesting, especially in the context of meditations. From the Daily Stat:

After just 5 weeks of daily 5-to-16-minute training sessions in focused-attention meditation (“Relax with your eyes closed, and focus on the flow of your breath…”), research subjects showed strong brain-wave changes associated with positive emotions, says a team led by Christopher A. Moyer of the University of Wisconsin. The findings suggest that the benefits of meditation may be more accessible than was previously believed, the researchers say.

Pretty cool, eh? Of course, the Daily Stat is a secondary source, so if you’re interested in reading the journal article, you can find it here: Frontal Electroencephalographic Asymmetry Associated With Positive Emotion Is Produced by Very Brief Meditation Training.

So, maybe this is more motivation for you to get back to (or start!) meditating.

 

21-Day Meditation Challenge: Join Me!

I just finished listening to Day 1 of Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge. Boy, did it feel good to meditate again! When was the last time you sat (and didn’t fiddle with technology or thoughts) for an extended period of time? I’ve written about the importance of stillness and unplugging before, but now I’m offering you an opportunity to follow-through on it.

Why don’t you join me and thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of other people and follow along with Deepak’s meditations for the next 21 days.

I really like being part of something bigger than “me” and this is certainly an opportunity to feel connected to an infinite number of people. As I’m listening to the meditation, I can be sure that there will be countless people who will also be listening to the same track as me (at some point during the day).

So, whaddaya say — let’s meditate together over the next 21 days.

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I will say that the meditations are couched in abundance. That is, the theme of the meditations have to do with abundance. Most folks think of abundance as an abundance of cash, but there are many other kinds of abundance. One can have an abundance of peace, joy, comfort, love, and the list goes on.

So — head on over to the landing page and listen to the first meditation because it started today. You can do it!

Complementary and Preventive Medicine: Healthcare & American Public Policy, Part 5

: Economics
: Campaign Finance & Elections
: Education
: Food

On March 23, 2010, you may have seen many Facebook profiles switch over to the picture on the right. This is a picture of President Obama signing the into law. Most of the people of these Facebook profiles who displayed this picture would be supporters of the movement to improve healthcare in the United States. In fact, the bill that President Obama signed into law was intended to do just that.

Truth be told, I haven’t read the entire bill, but . While you can never ‘absolutely’ trust Wikipedia, it is still good for gaining an overview. In skimming over the Wikipedia article for this bill, we learn a number of things that this bill has done that could be perceived as steps in the right direction for American Healthcare:

  • Medicaid eligibility is expanded to include all individuals and families with incomes up to 133% of the poverty level.
  • Improved benefits for Medicare prescription drug coverage are to be implemented.
  • Changes are enacted which allow a restructuring of Medicare reimbursement from “fee-for-service” to “bundled payments.”
  • Low income persons and families above the Medicaid level and up to 400% of the poverty level will receive subsidies on a sliding scale if they choose to purchase insurance via an exchange (persons at 150% of the poverty level would be subsidized such that their premium cost would be of 2% of income or $50 a month for a family of 4).
  • Additional support is provided for medical research and the National Institutes of Health.
  • The law will introduce minimum standards for health insurance policies and remove all annual and lifetime coverage caps.
  • The law mandates that some health care insurance benefits will be “essential” coverage for which there will be no co-pays.

These are only some of the things that the bill changes with regard to healthcare law, not to say that this isn’t already a huge number of changes all by themselves. Michael Moore did a documentary on healthcare in the United States a few years back. The movie was called . While some of the things that Moore is lambasting have changed as a result of this legislation, I’m pretty sure that this bill doesn’t address all of the concerns that Moore raised in his movie.

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The one thing I would have liked to have seen more of in the bill that President Obama signed into law over a year ago, is more . Being a in what could be classified as CAM, I’ve seen the benefits of this important part of healthcare. And the modality that is not nearly as much of a household name as say, , , or (which includes ). In 2002, 36% of adults said that they had used some form of CAM in the last 12 months. .  That’s nearly 4 in 10 Americans who use CAM. [All of these statistics are from the , which is one of the many centers that make up the (a government agency).]

For comparison’s sake, in 2006, 54% of Canadians reported having used CAM within the last 12 months, which was up 4% (from 50%) in 1997 (). In looking closer at the profiles of  and as rated by the World Health Organization (WHO), I wasn’t completely surprised to find differences. There was one major statistic that stood out to me: obesity. Some argue as to whether or not , but as it stands, . In the WHO health profiles of Canada and the US, Canada’s obesity percentage is significantly lower than the US. The percentage of adults 20+ years of age, in 2008, that were classified as obese by the WHO: . Holding all variables the same (20+, 2008), but for Americans: . I’m not necessarily trying to say that Canadians are healthier because they are more likely to use CAM, but the correlation does seem to be there. Of course, to truly measure this, we’d need to do a study of health measures (before and after) of CAM users (and non-CAM users).

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I’ve given you some statistics about CAM, but haven’t yet explained it completely:

as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine (also called Western or allopathic medicine) is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) and D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine;) degrees and by allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. The boundaries between CAM and conventional medicine are not absolute, and specific CAM practices may, over time, become widely accepted.

There’s one other bit of information that I want to cite from a :

This report demonstrates that there is significant underuse of effective preventive care in the United States, resulting in lost lives, unnecessary poor health, and inefficient use of health care dollars. All of the services examined in this report are extremely cost effective: they all provide an excellent return on investment. It is a national imperative to make these and other cost-effective preventive services affordable and accessible for all Americans. [emphasis added]

Much has been written in the past few months about America’s “.” As of 2008, the those of other countries relative to their [the healthcare costs in the US are nearly 16% of the total GDP, which is nearly 5% more than the “second place” country, Switzerland. For comparison’s sake, Canada is at 10%.] It takes a bit of foresight, but as the study above describes, it is imperative that the US (and other countries) significantly incorporate the effective use of preventive care into healthcare. Moreover, I think the diligent use of CAM (in conjunction with conventional medicine), paired with the idea of preventive care would dramatically reduce healthcare costs (for the government) and for its citizens.