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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton July 27, 2005

Reconceptualizing interruptions in physician-patient interviews: Cooperative and intrusive

  • Han Z. Li , Michael Krysko , Naghmeh G. Desroches and George Deagle


Results of past research on physician-patient interruption present an inconclusive picture. This study reconceptualizes interruption into cooperative and intrusive categories. Thirty physician-patient interviews, 13 male/male and 17 male/female, were audiotaped and microanalyzed. It was found that physicians did not interrupt patients more or vice versa. Rather, physicians and patients interrupted differently, the former more intrusively and the latter, more cooperatively. Furthermore, physicians did not dominate speaking turns nor speak more words than patients, as previously believed. We argue that their difference may not be measured by the number of words or speaking turns because it is embedded in their respective communication style. It was also found that female patients exhibited eleven times as much cooperative interruptions as did male patients. When physicians interrupted patients, they were unsuccessful only 6% of the time. When patients interrupted physicians, they were unsuccessful 32% of the time. The results of this study point out the necessity to reconceptualize interruptions in physician-patient interviews.


Address for correspondence: Dept. of Psychology, College of Arts, Social and Health Sciences, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, BC, Canada V2N 4Z9, Canada. E-mail:
Address for correspondence: SABA University School of Medicine, PO Box 1000, The Botom, SABA, Netherlands-Antilles.
Address for correspondence: Office for Persons with Disabilities, Needles Hall, 200 University Avenue West, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1.
Address for correspondence: University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, V8N 4Z9, Prince George, BC, Canada.

Published Online: 2005-07-27
Published in Print: 2004-09-29

© Walter de Gruyter

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