How Does Physician (Non)accommodation Affect Patient Behavioral Intention? Using a Web-Based Experiment to Examine Indirect Effects of Language Type on Behavioral Intention Through Goal Inferences and Source Appraisals

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Journal of Health Communication


Drawing on communication accommodation theory (CAT), we investigated how physician (non)accommodation indirectly affects participants’ intention to engage in advocated health behaviors through participant goal inferences and source appraisals. We conducted a 3 (language type: medical jargon, analogies, literal language) × 2 (health topic: coronary artery disease, influenza vaccine) web-based experiment. Participants recruited from an online research panel (N = 545) were randomly assigned to a condition and watched a video featuring a physician explaining medical information and providing health recommendations. In a serial mediation analysis, results suggested two parallel indirect effects (relational vs. informational). Relative to underaccommodation (i.e. medical jargon), physician accommodation (i.e. literal language, analogies) had positive, indirect effects on participant health behavioral intention through goal inferences and assessment of physicians (i.e. warmth, expertise). Compared to the use of literal language, physician use of analogies had a positive, indirect effect on participant behavioral intention solely through the relational path, not the informational path. These findings extend CAT by explicating a mechanism underlying physician (non)accommodation and patient outcomes, offering practical implications for physicians to foster relationships with patients and facilitate patient comprehension.

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