Neuroticism, symptom presentation, and medical decision making

Lee Ellington, Deborah J. Wiebe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


In 2 studies, the authors explored whether neuroticism influences illness descriptions in a manner that affects medical decisions. In Study 1, 80 participants presented an imagined illness that was high or low in severity to a confederate medical student. Neuroticism was associated with more elaborate symptom presentations and, among high-severity participants, with more disclosures of psychosocial information. In Study 2, representative videotapes from Study 1 were selected as stimuli to be evaluated by 14 family practice residents. Residents were able to discriminate between severity conditions for low- but not for high-neuroticism participants. Residents also viewed high-neuroticism participants as less credible, less in need of medical treatment, and more in need of mental health treatment than low- neuroticism participants. Correlations suggest the report of psychosocial concerns by high-neuroticism participants contributed to these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-643
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 1999


  • Medical decision making
  • Negative affectivity
  • Neuroticism
  • Physician-patient communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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