Beliefs About Physicians: Their Role in Health Care Utilization, Satisfaction, and Compliance

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Although the most prominent social psychological models of health behavior are expectancy based, little attention has been paid to the role of individuals' beliefs about physicians in the utilization and evaluation of health care. Three studies suggest that individuals' beliefs about whether physicians should adopt an authoritarian or egalitarian role in health care interactions are related to health care utilization, satisfaction, and compliance. In Study 1, we found that authoritarian role expectations were associated with more self-reported visits to medical professionals in a sample of college undergraduates. In Study 2, we examined a sample of elderly outpatients and found that authoritarian beliefs were associated with objective indicators of greater health care utilization. In Study 3, we had undergraduates with authoritarian or egalitarian role expectations read a vignette in which a physician displayed either an authoritarian or egalitarian communication style. Although all subjects reported greater liking for the egalitarian than the authoritarian physician, egalitarian belief subjects reported being particularly dissatisfied with the authoritarian physician and reported particularly weak intentions of following the authoritarian physician's treatment prescriptions. These results suggest that individuals' subjective beliefs about medical professionals are an important determinant of health-related behaviors and perceptions.

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Basic and Applied Social Psychology, v. 17, issue 1-2, p. 23-48