Rossmann, Constanze & Ziegler, Lena

McDreamy, Dr. Grey & House

The Depiction of Doctors in Hospital Series and Their Impact on Viewers’ Perceptions

Research on the depiction of doctors in medical series and their impact on viewers’ perceptions is not new but shows inconsistent results. Some studies found that physicians are depicted in a very positive way, other analyses found medical series to present a more critical picture (for an overview see Cho et al. 2011). Accordingly, studies on the impact of doctor series on viewers’ perceptions indicate doctor series to increase positive perceptions of doctors (e.g., Quick 2009) whereas others point to increasingly negative effects (e.g., Chory-Asaad & Tamborini 2003). However, up-to-date studies on the depiction and impact of doctor series in Germany are rare. Hence, this study examines how German and US doctor series contribute to perceptions of physicians in the German public. Theoretical background is cultivation theory (Gerbner & Gross 1976) claiming that television influences real world perceptions (e.g., number of doctors, number of romantic relationships between doctors and medical staff) and attitudes (e.g., positive attitude to doctors, trust in the health care system). Along with Street’s (2003) ecological model of doctor-patient communication we further assume that doctor series – as part of media context – influence patients’ perceived relationship to their doctors.

Using a two-step-approach we examine how doctor series depict physicians (quantitative con-tent analysis of nine doctor series on German television, two episodes each) and how this depiction influences viewers’ perceptions of doctors, their attitude, trust in the health care sys-tem, as well as their perceived relationship to doctors (online survey, n=652). Preliminary analyses show a significant positive association between viewing frequency of medical dramas and the perceived number of doctors, the perceived number of romantic relationships between physicians and medical staff, and attitudes towards physicians. No significant relationship was found between viewing frequency and trust in the health care system, as well as perceived doctor-patient-relationship. However, the latter was positively related to attitudes towards physicians indicating an indirect impact. The paper will present further analyses (e.g., content analysis, hierarchical regression analyses controlling for real-life experience, perceived realism, total TV viewing, and demographic attributes, structural equation analyses to address the causal relationship) and discuss the find-ings with regards to methodological limitations and theoretical implications.


Titel (deutsch): McDreamy, Dr. Grey & House - The Depiction of Doctors in Hospital Series and Their Impact on Viewers’ Perceptions
Titel (englisch): McDreamy, Dr. Grey & House - Die Darstellung von Ärzten in Krankenhausserien und ihre Wirkung auf die Zuschauer
Erhebungszeitraum: 11/2011–12/2011
Stichprobe (effektiv): 652
Stand der Informationen: 20.11.2012


Rossmann, Constanze & Ziegler, Lena. (2012). McDreamy, Dr. Grey & House. The Depiction of Doctors in Hospital Series and Their Impact on Viewers' Perceptions. Vortrag auf der 4. European Communication Conference (ECREA) 2012, 24.-27. Oktober 2012, Istanbul, Türkei.

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Constanze Rossmann, IfKW, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität

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