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Nonverbal Communication in Health Care Settings

  • By: Gaëtan Cousin & Marianne Schmid Mast
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Nonverbal communication is communication without words. Although the interest in caregiver and patient nonverbal communication is relatively young, studies on nonverbal behavior in the realm of caregiver–patient interactions have yielded many interesting results during the last decades. First in correlational designs and then in experimental ones, researchers have shown that health care providers' nonverbal communication predicts several important patient outcomes. For instance, it is known that affiliative nonverbal behaviors such as smiling, nodding, or leaning forward increase patient satisfaction, trust, and adherence. Moreover, the research enables health communicators and others to begin to gain insight into how patients' individual characteristics shape their reactions to a given caregiver's communication style.

Researchers have not only investigated caregivers' nonverbal behavior but also have looked at patients' nonverbal behavior. In ...

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