Task versus socioemotional behaviors in physicians

Judith A. Hall, Debra L. Roter, Nancy R. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


This paper investigates associations among physicians’ task-oriented and socioemotional behaviors during the medical encounter. The study is an analogue, using as source data the audiotapes and transcripts of two standardized patient cases presented by trained patient simulators to 43 primary care practitioners. Transcripts were scored for physician proficiency and were content-analyzed to assess the process of communication and information content. Physicians’ speech errors were counted, and vocal affect ratings were made of filtered audiotape excerpts. Physician communications reflected by these measures were classified as task-oriented or socioemotional. Findings indicated: 1) Most aspects of physician style were reliable across visits. 2) Physicians adopted either a patient-oriented or a physician-oriented approach to task performance, as characterized by giving information and counseling versus giving directions and asking questions, respectively. 3) Verbal and nonverbal socioemotional measures were not related. 4) Physicians tended to adopt either a style characterized by information-giving and proficiency or a social orientation with patients. 5) Physicians who were more medically informative had more interested and anxious voices compared with the less informative physicians. Thus, although the more medically informative physicians spent less time making socioemotional utterances, they had a voice quality that may compensate for that neglect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-412
Number of pages14
JournalMedical care
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1987


  • Analogue study
  • Physician performance
  • Physician socioemotional behaviors
  • Physician task behaviors
  • Physician-patient communication
  • Simulated patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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