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Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Sep;84(3):420-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.05.008. Epub 2011 Jun 14.

The psychophysiology of medical communication. Linking two worlds of research.

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Department of Medical Psychology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Medical communication is goal oriented behavior. As such, it can be modeled as a chain of decisions, resulting from cognitive and emotional processes each potentially associated with psychophysiological reactions. Psychophysiological may be helpful to detect small changes in affect or arousal in the course of a consultation that would be difficult to detect by other evaluations of the process, like self-reports. The question is how psychophysiological communication research should be modeled for unraveling in more detail the cognitive, emotional and interpersonal processes which underlie physician and patient behavior.


In the world of medical communication research the six-function model of medical communication reveals a number of fundamental perceptual, cognitive and emotional processes which may evoke psychophysiological responses. The world of psychophysiological research encompasses domains of perception, mental imagery, anticipation and action which all have close connections with fundamental tasks in communication.


This paper discusses ten methodological issues in linking continuous psychophysiological data to verbal and nonverbal events in a medical consultation observed with the Verona coding system.


When linking the two worlds of research, the methodological challenges discussed need to be solved to obtain a valid and reliable application of psychophysiological measures in medical communication research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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