Quebec Studies

Patterns of Nonverbal Interaction Between Family Physicians and Their Patients in Montreal

Quebec Studies (1986), 4, (1), 118–125.


PATTERNS OF NONVERBAL INTERACTION BETWEEN FAMILY PHYSICIANS AND THEIR PATIENTS IN MONTREAL Peter Woolfson This study, undcrtakcn at Montreal General Hospital during the summcr and early fall of 1985, rcprcscnts the first phase of a larger project investigating the nonverbal patterns of communication used by family practice physicians to establish and maintain rapport with their middle-aged and elderly paticnts. Nonverbal patterns of communication consist, principally, of proxemics, the cultural use of space for interaction and communication; kinesics, body set, bodily motion, and gesture; and pumhnguuge, extra-linguistic noises often associated with the expression of attitude and mood. Rapport as uscd in this study refers to the fcclings of trust, confidence, respect, and solidarity shared by a doctor with a patient. The premise of this study is that nonverbal patterns of behavior, bccause they are largely outside the awareness of the participants, can provide an excellcnt indicator of rapport between a doctor and a patient. There have bcen several studies of doctor-patient interaction.1 They all begin with the finding that therapeutic procedures, especially those involving patient compliance (i.e., taking recommended medication), dcpcnd strongly on the physician's ability to establish rapport with the patient. Many studies have uscd the Bales interaction process analysis model for evaluating rapport between a doctor and paticnt. Barbara Frecman et al, using a modified version of thc Bales model, found that successful results were achieved by doctors who made many positive statcmcnts, displayed warmth and solidarity, used tension releasers like jokes, and cngagcd their patients in nonmedical conversations. On thc other hand, doctors who appeared to be cold, hostile, or antagonistic received ncgativc cvaluation from their pa ticnts. The primary tool used in evaluating doctor-paticnt

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Author details

Woolfson, Peter