Patients see empathetic physicians as more competent

From Becker’s:

The so-called “warmth/competence trade-off” — in which people perceive an inverse relationship between empathy and competence — may not hold true for physicians, according to a recent study from Yale University, published in PLOS ONE.

Based on the study’s findings, patients perceive their physicians as more competent when they demonstrate empathy through nonverbal behaviors such as eye contact and body language. Researchers conducted the study online by asking participants to judge a physician’s warmth and competence based on still photographs of empathetic and “unemphathetic” nonverbal behavior between a physician and patient, coupled with the same script. They also tested the script with photographs of physicians wearing white coats and those not wearing white coats.

The results indicated patients perceived physicians who demonstrated empathetic nonverbal behaviors as more warm and competent, regardless of the presence of a white coat.

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