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Quantifying Risk: Verbal Probability Expressions in Spanish and English

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Objective : To investigate how Spanish- and English-speaking adults interpret verbal probability expressions presented in Spanish and English (eg, posiblemente and possibly, respectively).

Method : Professional translators and university students from Mxico and the United States read a series of likelihood statements in Spanish or English and then estimated the certainty implied by each statement.

Results : Several terms that are regarded as cognates in English and Spanish elicited significantly different likelihood ratings. Several language equivalencies were also identified.

Conclusions : These findings provide the first reported evaluation of Spanish likelihood terms for use in risk communications directed towards monolingual and bilingual Spanish speakers.

Keywords: health communication; health literacy; numeracy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1 Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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