UC Riverside



Robert Rosenthal


rosenthal

High Expectations Beget High Achievement
Robert Rosenthal, a distinguished professor of psychology, has spent more than 50 years researching how unspoken expectations can create self-fulfilling prophecies.

A Doctor’s Manner May Help Determine Whether Treatment Works

Distinguished Professor of Psychology Robert Rosenthal’s research on non-verbal communication and creating self-fulfilling prophecies is considered so groundbreaking that researchers routinely reference what is now known as "The Rosenthal Effect."

Rosenthal, who spent 37 years at Harvard before coming to UCR in 1999, is considered a main figure of modern psychology. His work has shown how teachers with high expectations of students are more likely to see that high achievement actually materialize. He also found a strong connection between how juries will rule and the nonverbal behavior of judges as they instruct juries prior to deliberation.

He leads a group of UCR psychologists whose research found that a doctor’s ability to communicate feelings of warmth and support to a patient can affect whether the planned treatment actually works.

These findings have implications for the medical field. For example, Rosenthal's research has shown that doctors' mannerisms can determine whether patients follow their doctor’s instructions, ignore them, or only follow through with some of them. It also suggests a link between a doctor’s behavior and their likelihood of being sued for malpractice.

The key is nonverbal communication, such as body language and tone of voice. The research has been used to examine:

  • Whether a doctor can actually reach a patient suffering from alcoholism.
  • Whether a doctor’s tone of voice will discourage a patient from following through with treatment.
  • Whether patients will schedule follow-up appointments.
  • Whether patients are likely show up for follow-up appointments.

Professor Rosenthal’s body of work presents an array of issues that must be considered by medical schools when deciding on how to best train future doctors. It also could lead eventually lead to changes in the admission criteria for medical schools.

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