Face and politeness in pharmacist-physician interaction

Bruce L. Lambert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This study used Brown and Levinson's theory of politeness to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence pharmacists' messages to physicians. Specifically, perceived differences in power and social distance between pharmacist and physician were expected to influence the amount of politeness observed in pharmacists' messages. The effects of age, sex, and practice context were also examined. Written messages were gathered from 210 community pharmacists and 112 hospital pharmacists in response to a hypothetical drug allergy scenario. Messages were segmented into independent clauses, and independent clauses were classified according to the politeness strategy used to make allergy reports and alternative drug recommendations respectively. Content analysis of the messages in relation to demographic variables revealed that age and practice context were significantly associated with the overall level of politeness of alternative drug recommendations, but not with overall politeness of allergy reports. Demographic factors were significantly related to perceptions of power and social distance, but, contrary to Brown and Levinson's prediction, these perceptions were not associated with variation in politeness. Regardless of other factors, recommendations were made more politely than reports. Implications for pharmacists' professional roles and identities are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1189-1198
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


  • Clinical pharmacy
  • Interprofessional relations
  • Pharmacy cognitive services
  • Politeness
  • Role expansion
  • Social distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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