Why patients ignore physicians' emotions

New research found patients tend to see their physicians as "empty vessels" and don't recognize their emotions, according to The Atlantic.

The study, conducted by Juliana Schroeder, PhD, from the University of California, Berkeley and Ayelet Fishbach, PhD, from the University of Chicago, surveyed 100 patients on their experiences with physicians. The patients also rated the fictional physicians on emotionality.

Their results showed patients often see their physicians as "instrumental" individuals who are primarily there to serve the patients' needs. Interestingly, the patients still wanted their physicians to have emotions — as long as the emotions were focused on them.

But Dr. Schroeder and Dr. Fishbach clarify that the patients weren't objectifying physicians and pronouncing them incapable of caring. Instead, the patients wanted all of the caring to be directed at them.

The study also found patients perceived physicians who were more instrumental to patients' health (such as cardiologists) to be more of "empty vessels" than those considered less instrumental (like cosmetic surgeons).

"When people are in high need of someone, they are more likely to approach the person and express appreciation," the study concluded. "Conversely, negative consequences may result when patients overlook physicians' personal characteristics the patient does not need."

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