Influence of Sex and Body Language on Patient Perceptions of Anesthesiologists

Anesthesiology. 2019 Feb;130(2):314-321. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000002527.


Background: Patient perception of physician competence is important. The role of body language and physician sex on patient perceptions has not been investigated. The authors hypothesized that patients perceive anesthesiologists displaying confident body language as more competent and that patients would prefer male anesthesiologists.

Methods: Two hundred adult patients presenting to the Preanesthesia Evaluation and Testing Center at the University of Virginia Health System were recruited to participate using consecutive sampling. Patients viewed four 90-s videos in random order. Each video featured a male or female actor displaying confident, high-power poses or unconfident, low-power poses. Each actor recited the same script describing general anesthesia. Patients were randomized (100 per group) to view one of two sets of videos to account for any actor preferences. Participants ranked each actor anesthesiologist on perceived confidence, intelligence, and likelihood of choosing that anesthesiologist to care for their family member. Participants also chose the one actor anesthesiologist who seemed most like a leader.

Results: Two hundred patients watched the videos and completed the questionnaire. Actor anesthesiologists displaying confident, high-power body language had greater odds of being ranked as more confident (odds ratio, 2.27; 95% CI, 1.76 to 2.92; P < 0.0001), more intelligent (odds ratio, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.13 to 2.18; P < 0.0001), more likely chosen to care for one's family member (odds ratio, 2.34; 95% CI, 1.82 to 3.02; P < 0.0001), and more likely to be considered a leader (odds ratio, 2.60; 95% CI, 1.86 to 3.65; P < 0.0001). Actor anesthesiologist sex was not associated with ranking for any response measures.

Conclusions: Patients perceive anesthesiologists displaying confident body language as more confident, more intelligent, more like a leader, and are more likely to choose that anesthesiologist to care for their family member. Differences in patient perceptions based on sex of the anesthesiologist were not detected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anesthesiologists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Clinical Competence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinesics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Videotape Recording
  • Young Adult