Award Date

May 2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Committee Member

Murray G. Millar

Second Committee Member

Stephen D. Benning

Third Committee Member

Janice C. McMurray

Fourth Committee Member

Peter B. Gray

Number of Pages

116

Abstract

Physical appearance has a far-reaching influence on a variety of human interactions, yet the effects on one domain has been largely ignored. This dissertation examines the potential effect of physical attractiveness on health care quality. Theoretical explanations for the development of both prejudice and stereotypes are presented, with a focus on the development and effects of attractiveness-based stereotypes. Several studies have found that workers in the medical field are susceptible to the same biases as the general public and that these are associated with lower health care quality for those more marginalized by society. Therefore, two studies were conducted to establish first, that health care workers possess attractiveness-based stereotypes similar to other segments of society and second, that these stereotypes affect the quality of health care received by individual patients. Based on these findings, there is a dire need for further research into this area. Automatic stereotype activation is extremely difficult to prevent, yet even more so when individuals are unaware of these stereotypes. Although programs exist to help reduce race and gender based stereotypic behavior in fields such as medicine or law enforcement, attractiveness-based stereotypes are largely ignored. Attempts cannot be undertaken for education and corrective action until we have a larger body of substantial basic research supporting the power that attractiveness-based stereotypes have over health-related decision-making.

Disciplines

Experimental Analysis of Behavior

Language

English


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