Why Having an Empathetic Doctor Could Aid Your Recovery

Most of us go to the doctors numerous times in our lives. However, did you know that recent research has suggested their personality can have an impact on your expectations of how effective what they prescribe will be?

“I wonder if you’ve had the need to go to the doctors recently because this week I’ve got some fascinating psychology into how their face-to-face communication skills can actually increase the effectiveness of the medicine they prescribe.

The insight comes from research undertaken by psychologists at Stanford University and relates to the placebo effect – how your expectations and beliefs about a certain outcome can affect the outcome itself. In the research, 164 volunteers were administered an injection of histamine which causes an infection on the skin. They were then given an (inert) cream and were told it would either soothe the infection or make it worse.

The core of the experiment was linked to the way the doctors acted when offering the insights as to what the cream was likely to do as they were asked to show high or low levels of warmth and competence.

The results were really interesting as they indicated that the placebo effect was amplified when the patients interacted with warm and competent doctors. In other words, patients believed the cream would have a positive impact more when a warm and competent doctor told them.

In the study ‘competence’ was not related to people skills but ‘warmth’ was with doctors indicating it by making eye contact, sharing their first names and being generally more empathetic.

It is another (albeit unlikely) insight as to why people skills are so important and – whether you are a doctor or not – and you want to improve yours, remember we’ll be opening registration to this year’s Meetology® Masterclass in London in a few weeks. It takes place in June and we’d love to see you there. Register your interest now at www.meetology.com

I hope 2018 has started well and I’ll be back in a week’s time with some more Meetology® – helping you thrive, professionally and personally, by making people skills one of your superpowers.

Thanks for visiting and see you next week,


Jonathan Bradshaw
The Meetology® Lab


Howe, L. C., Goyer, J. P., & Crum, A. J. (2017). Harnessing the placebo effect: Exploring the influence of physician characteristics on placebo response. Health Psychology, 36(11), 1074-1082.





About the Author:

Jonathan Bradshaw presents and trains internationally on the fascinating psychology powering exceptional interpersonal communication. He is Founder of the Meetology® Lab and leads the company’s team of behavioral psychologists in collating and sharing cutting-edge research on exceptional people skills. As an experienced and engaging keynote speaker Jon has presented at conferences and business events in over 30 countries and is an award-winning columnist and blogger. Learn more about him speaking at your next event via www.meetology.com or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.