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Monday, July 27, 2020

Doctors are seen as Godlike: Moral typecasting in medicine

A. Goranson, P. Sheeran, J. Katz, & K. Gray
Social Science & Medicine
Available online 25 May 2020, 113008


Doctors are generally thought of as very intelligent and capable. This perception has upsides—doctors are afforded respect and esteem—but it may also have downsides, such as neglecting the mental and physical health of physicians. Two studies examine how Americans “typecast” doctors as Godlike “thinkers” who help others, rather than as vulnerable “feelers” who might themselves need help.


• Americans view doctors as godlike and invulnerable.

• Doctors are seen as more agentic than other working professionals.

• Doctors are seen as able to ignore mental and physical health problems.

• Moral typecasting in medicine leads people to neglect doctors' suffering.

From the Discussion

Indeed, doctors are seen as equal to God in their capacity to think, exert self-control, remember details, and plan for the future (see Figure 1). Past work reveals that people typecast those who help others both high in agency and low in experience—which makes them invulnerable to injury and insult, and relatively incapable of suffering (K. Gray & Wegner, 2009). Our results confirm the existence of moral typecasting in medicine: compared to other working adults, people see doctors as less sensitive to pain, fear, embarrassment, and hunger (see Figure 2). We further find that these perceptions of super-human doctors extend outside of work and into global perceptions of physicians’ traits and abilities. This work adds to other research arguing that people do not want to acknowledge the feelings of healthcare providers, because this would make providers less capable of serving our health-related goals (Schroeder & Fishbach, 2015).

A pdf of the research is here.