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Want Better Treatment From Your Doctor? Be Likeable

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Whether at work or at home, pleasantries can make life a lot easier.

And based on the results of a study published in the October 2011 issue of the journal Pain, the same may be true in the doctor’s office.

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium took forty men and women (seventeen men and twenty three women) – none of whom were health professionals – and showed them photos of six different patients labeled two each with negative traits (e.g. egoistical, hypocritical, or arrogant), neutral traits (e.g. reserved, or conventional), or positive traits (e.g. faithful, honest, or friendly). After viewing the photos, participants watched short videos of the same six patients undergoing a standard physiotherapy assessment for shoulder pain. Then they were asked to rate the level of pain the patients were experiencing while undergoing the assessment.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  If two patients in the study had identical levels of shoulder pain, the study participants concluded that the patient with the positive attitude had worse pain than the one with the bad attitude.  In other words, if you had pain and had a nice manner, your pain was taken seriously.  If you had the same amount of pain and you weren’t deemed “likeable,” your pain was more likely to be ignored or underrated.

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