Further explorations of common-sense representations of common illnesses.

R. R. Lau, T. M. Bernard, K. A. Hartman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


A simple method is presented for measuring people's illness cognitions--their common-sense representations of common illnesses. Data were collected from 1,628 different respondents who described a recent illness form 1 to 3 separate times over a 17-month period. A free-clustering task performed by a set of naive participants confirmed that these cognitions fall into the five components that have been previously noted: identity, time line, consequences, cause, and cure. These five components are found to be reasonably stable over time and across different illness episodes. Several consequences of these illness cognitions, in terms of changes in health-locus-of-control beliefs and different propensities to visit a doctor, are also noted. Specifically, controllable attributions for getting sick and personal responsibility attributions for getting better are associated with increased beliefs in Self-Control Over Health and decreased beliefs in Chance Health Outcomes; people with strong Identity and Cure components in their common-sense representations of common illnesses have a greater propensity to visit a doctor when feeling ill.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-219
Number of pages25
JournalHealth psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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