Reactions to Patients who Complain of Pain: Effects of Ambiguous Diagnosis1


  • 1

    This study represents an MA thesis project by the first author at the University of Washington. The authors are grliteful to Robert Hoehn and his staff at the Nursing Media Office for help in producing the videotapes, and to Philip Blumstein, David Schmitt, and Letitia Anne Peplau for comments on earlier drafts.


Reactions to patients who complain of pain were explored in an experimental study in which nursing students viewed a videotape of a “hospital patient”. The medical diagnosis and the physical attractiveness of the patient were systematically varied. Results indicated that an ambiguous diagnosis itself led to a negative impression of the patient, rather than leading to the use of nonrnedically relevant information (physical attractiveness) to form an impression. Patients with an ambiguous diagnosis were rated less favorably on trait adjectives, and their pain was seen as less genuine.