Coherence and correspondence in medicine

Thomas G. Tape

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Many controversies in medical science can be framed as tension between a coherence approach (which seeks logic and explanation) and a correspondence approach (which emphasizes empirical correctness). In many instances, a coherencebased theory leads to an understanding of disease that is not supported by empirical evidence. Physicians and patients alike tend to favor the coherence approach even in the face of strong, contradictory correspondence evidence. Examples include the management of atrial fibrillation, treatment of acute bronchitis, and the use of Vitamin E to prevent heart disease. Despite the frequent occurrence of controversy stemming from coherence-correspondence conflicts, medical professionals are generally unaware of these terms and the philosophical traditions that underlie them. Learning about the coherence-correspondence distinction and using the best of both approaches could not only help reconcile controversy but also lead to striking advances in medical science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-140
Number of pages7
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Coherence
  • Correspondence
  • Medical decision making
  • Philosophy of science
  • Theories of truth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


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