Hostile Sexist Male Patients and Female Doctors: A Challenging Encounter

  • Christina Klöckner Cronauer
  • Marianne Schmid Mast
Original Research Article



Patient characteristics and attitudes can affect how patients react to the physician’s communication style, and this reaction can then influence consultation outcomes.


The goal of the present study was to investigate whether the attitude of a sexist male patient affects how he perceives a female physician’s nonverbal communication and whether this then results in expecting less positive consultation outcomes.

Study design and setting

Participants were analog patients who viewed four videotaped male and four videotaped female physicians in a consultation with one of their patients. Physician videos were preselected to represent a range of high and low patient-centered physician nonverbal behavior. Participants filled in questionnaires to assess how patient-centered they perceived the female and male physicians’ nonverbal communication to be, and participants indicated how positive they expected the consultation outcomes to be. Moreover, we assessed the participants’ sexist attitudes with a questionnaire measuring hostile and benevolent sexism.


Students (N = 60) from a French-speaking university in Switzerland were recruited on campus.

Main outcome measure

The main outcome measures were the extent to which analog patients expect the consultation outcomes to be positive (high satisfaction, increased trust in the physician, intention to adhere to treatment recommendations, and perceived physician competence) and the extent to which analog patients perceive physicians as patient-centered (judged from the physicians’ nonverbal cues).


Male analog patients’ hostile sexism was negatively related to perceiving the physicians as patient-centered, and male analog patients’ hostile sexism was also negatively related to expected positive consultation outcomes. For male patients viewing female physicians, mediation analysis revealed that perceived physician patient-centeredness mediated the negative relationship between hostile sexism and expected positive consultation outcomes.


Male hostile sexist patients perceive a female physician’s nonverbal communication as less patient-centered and this negatively affects their expectation of positive outcomes from the consultation.


Sexist Attitude Nonverbal Behavior Benevolent Sexism Female Physician Hostile Sexism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Acknowledgments and funding

The authors thank Gaëtan Cousin for his comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The research findings have been presented at the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare 2010 in Verona. This research has been supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (PP0001-106528/1) to the second author.

Conflicts of interest and guarantor statement

We, Christina Klöckner Cronauer and Marianne Schmid Mast, certify that there is no conflict of interest with any financial organization regarding the material discussed in the manuscript. Both authors have sufficiently participated in the planning of this study, acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of data, as well as the drafting and reviewing process of this article, and therefore are equal guarantors for the overall content.

Supplementary material

40271_2013_25_MOESM1_ESM.docx (110 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 111 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Klöckner Cronauer
    • 1
  • Marianne Schmid Mast
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Work and Organizational PsychologyUniversity of NeuchatelNeuchâtelSwitzerland

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