How well do people recall risk factor test results? Accuracy and bias among cholesterol screening participants

Robert T. Croyle, Elizabeth F. Loftus, Steven D. Barger, Yi Chun Sun, Marybeth Hart, Joann Gettig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The authors conducted a community-based cholesterol screening study to examine accuracy of recall for self-relevant health information in long-term autobiographical memory. Adult community residents (N = 496) were recruited to participate in a laboratory-based cholesterol screening and were also provided cholesterol counseling in accordance with national guidelines. Participants were subsequently interviewed 1, 3, or 6 months later to assess their memory for their test results. Participants recalled their exact cholesterol levels inaccurately (38.0% correct) but their cardiovascular risk category comparatively well (88.7% correct). Recall errors showed a systematic bias: Individuals who received the most undesirable test results were most likely to remember their cholesterol scores and cardiovascular risk categories as lower (i.e., healthier) than those actually received. Recall bias was unrelated to age, education, knowledge, self-rated health status, and self-reported efforts to reduce cholesterol. The findings provide evidence that recall of self-relevant health information is susceptible to self-enhancement bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-432
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Bias
  • Cholesterol
  • Memory distortion
  • Risk factor
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'How well do people recall risk factor test results? Accuracy and bias among cholesterol screening participants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this