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Br J Cancer. 2003 Feb 24;88(4):502-9.

Impact of medical specialists' locus of control on communication skills in oncological interviews.

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  • 1Universit√© Catholique de Louvain, Facult√© de Psychologie et des Sciences de l'Education, Louvain-La-Nueve, Belgium. yves.libert@bordet.be


Although is it widely recognised that physicians' characteristics could influence their communication styles, no empirical evidence is currently available. No studies are available on the impact of physicians' locus of control (LOC) on their communication skills. LOC is a generalised belief regarding the extent to which life outcomes are controlled by an individual's actions (internal LOC) or by external forces such as luck, fate or other individuals (external LOC). It was hypothesised that physicians with external LOC would take more into account others' concerns than physicians with internal LOC and would consequently use more appropriate assessment, informative and supportive functions. A total of 81 medical specialists were assessed in a simulated interview and a clinical interview. Communication skills were rated according to the Cancer Research Campaign Workshop Evaluation Manual. LOC was assessed using the Rotter I-E scale. Communication skills of the upper and lower quartiles of physicians in respect of their scores on this scale were compared using Student's t-test. Results show that physicians with external LOC give more appropriate information than physicians with internal LOC in simulated interviews (P=0.011) and less premature information than physicians with internal LOC in clinical interviews (P=0.015). This result provides evidence that physicians' LOC can influence their communication styles in oncological interviews and in particular the way they provide information to the patient.

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