Objective: To investigate the influence of the general practitioner's style of clothing on the patient's level of confidence in that doctor; is vanity a functional attribute for the GP?
Design: Experimental comparative study.
Method: 4 photographic models representing 4 types of GP, namely the older male, younger male, older female and younger female GP, were each photographed dressed in 4 different styles of clothing (business wear, formal, semi-formal and casual). These photos were shown to evaluators with the question 'How much confidence do you have in this doctor?' The level of confidence was allocated a score on a numerical scale from 0 (no confidence) to 10 (complete confidence). There were 2 groups of evaluators: patients aged ≥ 65 years and professionals attending a symposium.
Results: The clothing style had a significant impact on the level of confidence in the older and younger male doctor and in the younger female doctor. The assessment by elderly patients (n = 116) differed significantly from the assessment by professionals (n = 59). The professionals had a far more pronounced opinion on style of clothing than the patients did. Business wear and formal clothing generally inspired more confidence than casual clothing.
Conclusion: A GP's style of clothing affects the patient's initial level of confidence in that doctor. Vanity therefore seems to be a functional attribute for the GP.