Effects of monitoring versus blunting on the public’s preferences for information in a hypothetical cancer diagnosis scenario

Katie Plamann, Mayo Clinic Health System
Patricia McCarthy Veach, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Bonnie S. LeRoy, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Ian M. MacFarlane, Elizabethtown College
Sue V. Petzel, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview
Heather A. Zierhut, University of Minnesota Twin Cities


Monitoring and blunting are coping styles that characterize how people respond when faced with personally threatening situations. High monitors tend to pay more attention to, scan for, and amplify threatening cues; high blunters tend to avoid information and seek distractions when faced with a threatening event. This study sought to investigate possible differential effects of monitoring and blunting coping styles on information preferences in a hypothetical cancer diagnosis scenario in the adult general public of Minnesota. In a survey administered at a large public venue (2016 Minnesota State Fair), participants were asked to imagine they carried a gene mutation and were diagnosed with colon cancer. They indicated their information preference [modified Cassileth Information Styles Questionnaire (MCISQ)], completed two coping style measures [Miller Behavioral Style Scale (MBSS) and Threatening Medical Situations Inventory (TMSI)], rated their perceived severity of colon cancer (low, moderate, high), and answered demographic questions. Eight hundred fifty-five individuals provided usable data. Participants classified as monitors on the TMSI had significantly higher MCISQ scores (i.e., preferred more information) than those classified as blunters (p =.004). Those scoring high on monitoring and low on blunting on the MBSS preferred significantly more information than those scoring high on both monitoring and blunting (p =.04). Linear regression analysis revealed being a monitor (TMSI), scoring high on monitoring (MBSS), rating colon cancer as more severe, and having a higher education level were significant positive predictors of MCISQ scores. Results suggest individual differences in coping style, perceived severity, and education level affect desire for information. Genetic counselors should consider these patient characteristics (e.g., asking patients about their information preferences) and tailor their approaches accordingly.