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ABSTRACT: Objective: Patient perception of physician expertise has important implications for adherence to treatment. This study investigates factors that may influence a patient's perception of a physician's knowledge and expertise (i.e., epistemic authority; EA). These factors are agreement with the physician regarding inoculation against the flu, physician gender, and treatment setting (private vs. public). Method: The sample consisted of 187 participants (111 women and 76 men). Data were collected using four scenarios, each illustrating a visit to a physician (female or male, working in private or public practice) who recommended (for or against) the flu inoculation. The physician's recommendation was manipulated in a between-subjects design. The study participants' preference regarding flu inoculation was measured before they were shown the scenarios. The dependent measure was a six-item rating of the EA attributed to the physician described in the scenario. Results: Physicians who recommended inoculation were perceived as having significantly higher EA than those who recommended against it. In addition, correspondence between the participant's preference and the physician's recommendation affected the physician's EA only in the condition where the physician recommended performing the inoculation. Finally, only when participants had a positive attitude toward inoculation did they view physicians in public clinics as having lower EA than those working in private clinics. Conclusions: These results demonstrated that patients' evaluations of their physicians' EA are influenced by their implicit and explicit beliefs about the physician's role. One of these expectations is that expert physicians should prescribe active treatment rather than abstention from it. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
Health Psychology 02/2012; · 3.83 Impact Factor