Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 123–133 | Cite as

How Can Respectfulness in Medical Professionals Be Increased? A Complex But Important Question

  • Claudine ClucasEmail author
  • Lindsay St Claire
Original Research


Respectfulness is demanded of doctors and predicts more positive patient health-related outcomes, but research is scarce on ways to promote it. This study explores two ways to conceptualize unconditional respect from medical students, defined as respect paid to people on the basis of their humanity, in order to inform strategies to increase it. Unconditional respect conceptualized as an attitude suggests that unconditional respect and conditional respect are additive, whereas unconditional respect conceptualized as a personality trait suggests that people who are high on unconditional respect afford equal respect to all humans regardless of their merits. One hundred and eighty-one medical students completed an unconditional respect measure then read a description of a respect-worthy or a non-respect-worthy man and indicated their respect towards him. The study found a main effect for unconditional respect and a main effect for target respect-worthiness but no interaction between the two when respect paid to the target was assessed, supporting the attitude-based conceptualization. This suggests that unconditional respect can be increased through relevant interventions aimed at increasing the relative salience to doctors of the human worth of individuals. Interventions to increase unconditional respect are discussed.


Unconditional respect Conditional respect Medical students Attitude Personality trait Medical professionalism 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Hearing and Balance StudiesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of ChesterChesterUK
  3. 3.Experimental Psychology DepartmentUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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