Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, Ph.D.

Brian Zikmund-Fisher

Associate Professor, Health Behavior & Health Education

Research Associate Professor, Internal Medicine (General Medicine)

3834 SPH I      Vcard icon
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2029

Office: (734) 936-9179


Website(s): Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM); UM Risk Science Center; (Free risk graphics generator); Community Perceptions of Dioxins (CPOD) Study

Professional Summary

Dr. Zikmund-Fisher uses his interdisciplinary background in decision psychology and behavioral economics to study factors that affect individual decision making about a variety of health and medical issues, with a particular emphasis on health and environmental risk perceptions and the effects of poor numeracy (people's ability to interpret quantitative information) on health and medical decision making. His research in health communications focuses on making risk statistics and other types of quantitative health information meaningful and useful for decision making by patients and the public.

Currently, Dr. Zikmund-Fisher is principal investigator of a multi-year award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to develop and test novel ways of displaying laboratory test results in patient portals of electronic health record systems that will make these data more useful and meaningful to patients. His past projects include acting as the Principal Investigator of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-funded Community Perceptions of Dioxins (CPOD) Study and co-leading the National Survey of Medical Decisions (the DECISIONS study) project.  

Dr. Zikmund-Fisher directs the Internet Survey Lab at the UM Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM), is a core faculty member of the UM Risk Science Center (UM-RSC) and the UM Health Informatics program, and is affiliated with the UM Center for Health Communications Research (UM-CHCR) and the Ann Arbor VAMC HSR&D Center for Clinical Management Research. He also serves as an Associate Editor for the journal Medical Decision Making.

Courses Taught

HBEHED661: Designing Sticky Communications for Health Advocacy, Education, and Mass Media
HBEHED662: Risk Communication: Theory, Techniques, and Applications in Health


Ph.D., Behavioral Decision Theory, Carnegie Mellon University, 2002
M.A., Behavioral Decision Making and Economics, Carnegie Mellon University, 1997
B.A., Economics (Minor: Psychology), Swarthmore College, 1991

Research Interests & Projects

Design of health communication messages

Medical decision making

Risk communication (health, medical, and/or environmental)

Graphical methods for communicating risk and other quantitative data

Survey research methods (esp. web-based survey experiments)

Experimental research

Cancer screening decisions

Cancer survivorship

Communications about genetic test results

Selected Publications

Search PubMed for publications by Brian Zikmund-Fisher >>

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J. (2013). The right tool is what they need, not what we have: a taxonomy of appropriate levels of precision in patient risk communication. Medical Care Research and Review, 70(1 suppl), 37S-49S.

Shaffer, V. A., Zikmund-Fisher, B. J. (2013). All stories are not alike: A purpose-, content-, and valence-based taxonomy of patient narratives in decision aids. Medical Decision Making, 33(1), 4-13.

Fagerlin, A., Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Ubel, P. A. (2011). Helping patients decide: ten steps to better risk communication. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 103(19), 1436-1443.

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Dickson, M., Witteman, H. O. (2011). Cool but counterproductive: interactive web-based communications can backfire. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(3), e60.

Zikmund-Fisher, B.J., Angott, A.M., Ubel, P.A. (2011). The benefits of discussing adjuvant therapies one at a time instead of all at once. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 129(1), 79-87.

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Couper, M. P., Singer, E., Levin, C., Fowler Jr, F. J., Ziniel, S., Ubel, P. A., Fagerlin, A. (2010). The DECISIONS Study: A nationwide survey of United States adults regarding 9 common medical decisions. Medical Decision Making, 30, 20S-34S.

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Fagerlin, A., Ubel, P. A. (2010). Risky feelings: Why a 6% risk of cancer doesn't always feel like 6%. Patient Education and Counseling, 81(Suppl), S87-S93.

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Fagerlin, A., Keeton, K., Ubel, P. A. (2007). Does labeling prenatal screening test results as negative or positive affect a woman's responses? American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 197, 528.e1-528.e6.

Fagerlin, A., Ubel, P. A., Smith, D. M., Zikmund-Fisher, B. J. (2007). Making numbers matter: Present and future research in risk communication. American Journal of Health Behavior, 31(Suppl. 1), S47-S56.

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Smith, D. M., Fagerlin, A., Ubel, P. A. (2007). Validation of the subjective numeracy scale (SNS): Effects of low numeracy on comprehension of risk communications and utility elicitations. Medical Decision Making, 27(5), 663-671.

Professional Affiliations

Society for Medical Decision Making
Society for Judgment and Decision Making



A Sample Pictograph
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Keynote Address on Evaluating Risk @ Donaghue BeyondEureka! 2012 Conference