Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2021

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Psychological Science

Department Chair or Program Director

McBride, Chris

First Advisor

Stahlman, David

Second Advisor

Palmwood, Erin

Third Advisor

Kolar, Dave

Major or Concentration



The central aspect of any physician-patient interaction is the medical interview. While many studies have investigated these interactions, few have acknowledged the role played by the histories of both patient and physician. The three-term contingency (i.e., antecedent-behavior-consequences; Skinner, 1953) establishes the functional relations between critical events, and is central to the investigation of both verbal and nonverbal behavior. Verbal behavior comprises those actions reinforced through the mediation of others in one’s verbal community. This paper suggests that an analysis of behavior pertaining to the role of verbal behavior in patient-physician interactions more precisely describes relationships between the medical interview and health outcomes. It may also suggest barriers preventing effective patient-physician interactions including the use of medical jargon, the multiple causation of behavior, and the lack of consensus regarding measures for evaluating interactions. This analysis may provide means for effective training of physicians to eliminate health disparities and the poor health outcomes that result from differences between the verbal communities of the patient and the physician.

Keywords: Contingency, verbal behavior, verbal community, health disparities, medical jargon, multiple causation

Included in

Psychology Commons