Doctors fail to see the joke
- By: Roger Dobson
A patient laughs four times during an average consultation with a doctor, according to new research.
But doctors rarely reciprocate, say the researchers, who videotaped 250 consultations in order to count the number of instances of laughter, smiles, and “smiling voices” involving the doctor or the patient or both.
The researchers, from the University of Helsinki, highlight some of the subjects of conversation that triggered laughter in the patients--varicose veins, pain in the leg, yeast infection, finger injury, and cholesterol testing--in a report of the study (Journal of Sociolinguistics 2002;6:207-35).
The report, “Laughter in medical interaction,” shows that in 70% of cases of a patient's laughing there was no response from the doctor. In 20% of cases the doctor did smile, but in only 10% of cases did they laugh.
“The patients laugh more than the doctors. We see that the occurrence of laughter seldom leads to its reciprocation--laughing together.