Bias by Medical Drama. Reflections of Stereotypic Images of Physicians in the Context of Contemporary Medical Dramas

  • Moritz Köhler
  • Claudia Förstner
  • Maximilian Zellner
  • Michael Noll-Hussong


Most of the protagonists in modern medical TV series are played by attractive actors or those portraying a special type of physician. Our pilot study attempted to scrutinize whether or not current German viewers are influenced by US medical series when choosing their physicians. For this, we determined four stereotypic characters exemplified in contemporary TV series, as follows: type 1, young, idealistic assistant physician (Dr. Dorian, Scrubs); type 2, experienced, cynical senior physician (Dr. Cox, Scrubs); type 3: good-looking, omniscient specialist (Dr. Shepherd, Grey’s Anatomy); and type 4, calm, authentic mentor (Dr. Greene, ER). We then assessed two groups of people. The first group consisted of young (<40 years of age) medical students in the 2nd semester at the University of Ulm. In an online survey, the students were asked to rate the four stereotypic TV physician characters using a five-point Likert scale. The criteria were sympathy, specialist competence, and one’s own treatment preference. Based on media consumption, we assumed that the participants knew these characters before the time of the survey. The second group consisted of participants >40 years of age. The students received pictures of the physicians, but they were not supposed to know who they were. The test persons were asked to select the physician who they felt should treat them based on sympathy and specialist competence. Indeed, only the stereotypic images of physicians had a high level of agreement in the first group (younger adults who were familiar with the television series). The majority of the second group made their decision based on a more realistic representation of an average, more familiar appearance.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moritz Köhler
    • 1
  • Claudia Förstner
    • 1
  • Maximilian Zellner
    • 1
  • Michael Noll-Hussong
    • 2
  1. 1.Medical Students of the University of UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and PsychotherapySaarland UniversityHomburg/SaarGermany

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