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Psychol Rep. 2002 Dec;91(3 Pt 1):793-806.

Participants' ratings of male physicians who vary in race and communication style.

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Department of Psychology, Stephens College, Columbia, MO 65215, USA.


Research has shown minorities receive lower quality health care than White persons even with socioeconomic conditions controlled. This difference may partially be related to racially biased attitudes and impaired communication in interracial relationships between physicians and patients. This study investigated the effect of physicians' race and nonverbal communication style on participants' evaluations. Patients at a local health clinic were participants (N = 116: 84% Black, 16% White). Each participant viewed one of four videotapes showing varied race of a physician (Black or White) and the physician's nonverbal behavior (expressing concern or distance), and then completed a questionnaire evaluating the depicted physician. Overall, participants did not give significantly different preferences for physicians of the same race. However, participants' evaluations were significantly associated with physicians' nonverbal style. Nonverbal concern was associated with highest satisfaction, trust, self-disclosure, recall of information, likelihood of recommending the physician, and intent to comply with the physician's recommendations. When male and female participants were compared, preference for a physician of the same race was found only among male participants who viewed verbally distant physicians. Results suggest that social skills are more important than race in shaping patients' perceptions of physicians.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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