The persuasive implications of therapeutic touch in doctor-patient relationships
This dissertation examined the effects of touch in the therapeutic context as a factor in determining patient compliance with physician directives. In particular, the current research focused on how the use of touch performs an impression-formation function, which serves to stimulate affective and behavioral responses from patients. These responses, it is argued, influence intention to comply.Petty and Cacioppo's (1981, 1986) Elaboraticn Likelihood Model (ELM) was juxtaposed with Burgoon and Hale's (1988) Nonverbal Expectancy Violations Theory (EVT) to generate two research questions and five hypotheses. In addition, the issue of physician and patient gender was examined for its effects on patients' perceptions of satisfaction with their physicians and patients' intentions to comply with physicians' directives.In short, for male patients, touch produced no significant associations with either warmth or dominance. However, for female patients, it appears that less touch is linked with perceptions of dominance, which is associated with less satisfaction with the caregiver, while multiple touching is associated with perceptions of warmth and greater satisfaction. For all patients, perceptions of physician warmth were associated with their satisfaction with caregivers; thus it appears that warmth was conveyed to male patients by verbal and nonverbal means, other than touch. In addition, regardless of the sex of the patient, satisfaction with the caregiver was associated with greater intentions to comply with physicians' directives.The current findings for male patients of no significant relationships between touch and perceptions of warmth and/or dominance suggest that touch may be a contributing peripheral cue which, when isolated from the effects of other nonverbal communicators, holds little predictive power regarding male patients' persuadability in the medical setting. As a result, a more useful approach to examining persuasion in the clinical setting may be to conceptualize touch as one of multiple cues that are likely to lead to persuasion, particularly regarding male patients' intentions to comply with doctors' orders.
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