You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:


Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

When the Doctor is a “Lady”: Power, Status and Gender in Physician-Patient Encounters

Candace West
Symbolic Interaction
Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring 1984), pp. 87-106
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction
DOI: 10.1525/si.1984.7.1.87
Stable URL:
Page Count: 20
  • Download ($42.00)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
Item Type
When the Doctor is a “Lady”: Power, Status and Gender in Physician-Patient Encounters
Preview not available


An extensive body of research indicates that men interrupt women much more often than the reverse, across a variety of situations. Some conclude that men's interruptions of women in cross-sex conversations constitute an exercise of power and dominance over their conversational partners. To be sure, power is an important facet of many other social relationships, such as those between whites and Blacks, bosses and employees, and—of immediate interest—doctors and patients. Moreover, much of our existing knowledge of sex differences in behavior confounds gender with status. This paper reports results of an exploratory study of interruptions between physicians and patients during actual “visits to the doctor.” Findings based on detailed analyses of videotaped encounters offer empirical support for an asymmetrical view of the physician-patient relationship: physicians interrupt patients disproportionately—except when the doctor is a “lady.” Then, patients interrupt as much or more than physicians, and their interruptions seem to subvert physicians' authority. Discussion focuses on the respective roles of power, status and gender in face-to-face interaction.

Page Thumbnails