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Rudeness Can Lead to Mistakes in Life and Death Situations

Posted on August 5, 2021

A University of Maryland study has found that experiencing rudeness can affect doctors’ decision making, with potentially deadly consequences, according to an article in Science Daily.

The study, “Trapped by A First Hypothesis: How Rudeness Leads to Anchoring,” explored “anchoring bias,” which causes us to rely too highly on the first information we are given. That’s problematic if the initial information is incorrect, and decisions are made based on it.

In the study, researchers conducted simulations with anesthesiology residents who were given an incorrect diagnosis about a patient. Throughout the simulation, information was revealed for the correct diagnosis. Residents who experienced rudeness at the start of the exercise were fixated on the initial wrong diagnosis, while those who did not experience rudeness were able to establish the right diagnosis. The researchers replicated the study in other situations, such as in negotiations and general knowledge, with the same effects. When rudeness was present, people were anchored to the information initially presented.

The researchers studied countering effects, which could possibly eliminate the narrow-minded consequences. Perspective-taking and information elaboration both helped to reduce the effect by expanding one’s point of view and seeing the situation more broadly, respectively.

"We tend to underestimate the performance implications of interpersonal treatment,” noted lead researcher Trevor Foulk at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. "In important domains, where people are making critical decisions, we really need to rethink the way we treat people.”

A poor decision in the ER or at Urgent Care could result in severe and even life-threatening consequences. If you would like to discuss a legal matter with a Philadelphia attorney experienced in emergency room injury cases, please contact us.