Facing up to stereotypes: Surgeons and physicians are no different in their emotional expressiveness

Owen Churches, Daniel Feuerriegel, Rebecca Callahan, Jeremy Wells, Jocelyn Keage, Hannah Keage, Mark Kohler, Nicole Thomas, Mike Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Of all the differences between surgeons and physicians that are discussed in the medical profession and in the community at large, one distinction stands out for its frequency of use: surgeons are less emotional than physicians, particularly in their relationships with patients. Here we tested this stereotype by analysing the portraits that 5914 surgeons and physicians had provided for patients to view when selecting a doctor. There is an asymmetry in the degree to which emotional information is conveyed by the face, with the right side being less expressive than the left. Hence, if the stereotype were true, surgeons would be more likely than physicians to show their right cheek in the photographs. While the results for doctors confirmed previous reports of a difference due to sex in which female doctors were more likely to show the left cheek than male doctors, we found that the doctors' specialization did not predict the way they turned in their portraits. Hence, the notion that surgeons face their patients less emotionally than physicians is not supported by the data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-590
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion
  • Face
  • Medical doctors
  • Photograph

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