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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 18, 2020

Learning clinical reasoning from the fictional detectives

Robert M. Centor and Alonso I. Heudebert
From the journal Diagnosis


While much diagnosis literature focuses on errors, our goal is to learn how to achieve diagnostic excellence. Before the explosion of cognitive psychology studies on errors, authors of fictional detectives understood the principles of arriving at the correct diagnosis (in their case the guilty party). Using quotes from many fictional detectives, we discuss a framework for diagnostic excellence. Understanding the implications of these quotes should help aspiring diagnosis experts on their path to excellence.

Corresponding author: Robert M. Centor, MD, MACP, UAB, FOT 720, 1530 3rd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35294-3407, USA, E-mail:

  1. Research funding: None declared.

  2. Author contributions: All authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this manuscript and approved its submission.

  3. Competing interests: Authors state no conflict of interest.


1. Centor, R. Stumbling towards a diagnosis. Diagnosis 2014;1:63–4. in Google Scholar

2. Heudebert, GR. Connecting the dots: like watching a movie…critically. Diagnosis 2014;1:65–7. in Google Scholar

Received: 2020-11-10
Accepted: 2020-11-24
Published Online: 2020-12-18
Published in Print: 2021-11-25

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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