Why Do Patients Take Their Doctor's Advice?

Is it the white coat?  That’s what I wondered in medical school when I would find patients asking me for advice on topics they simply had to know more about than me.  Mothers would ask me how to get their newborn babies to sleep through the night, asking me even though the one time I babysat I fell asleep on the family’s couch only to be woken up by their 4-year-old, asking me whether it was okay if she went to bed now.

Elderly men and women would ask me how to cope with fear of dying, asking me even though at the ripe old age of twenty-four I had not ever experienced that feeling.

Middle aged women would ask me whether I thought they should get mastectomy or lumpectomy to treat their newly diagnosed breast cancers, asking me even though I knew the decision was not a pure medical judgment but instead depended on their values, and whether they felt that preserving part of their breast was worth six weeks of radiation treatment.

I thought it was simply the white coat and all the knowledge it symbolized.  But having just read Francesca Gino’s wonderful new book, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan, I have a much richer understanding of when, and why, people choose to rely on advice… (Read more and view comments at Forbes)


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