Robyn Starry

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Randy Young

Degree Award Date

Spring 2014


psychology of healthcare, just-world hypothesis, Big Five personality traits, cancer patient counselor


Counseling Psychology | Health Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts | Psychology


Studies on politeness have shown that in situations of immediate danger or emergency, the general rules of politeness can be abandoned without consequence (Brown & Gilman, 1989). In life threatening situations that do not pose an immediate threat, such as a diagnosis of cancer, people may not react as favorably when the maintenance of a polite demeanor is abandoned (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Exploring the psychology of healthcare, we manipulated a fictitious patient's personal responsibility for having cancer and his reaction to the diagnosis. Research has shown that humans are quick to blame the victim for situations that they themselves are afraid of happening ( such as being diagnosed with cancer), a phenomenon referred to as the just-world hypothesis (Lerner, 1966). Participants gave responses to one of four scenarios involving a doctor giving a patient a diagnosis of cancer. Levels of confidence in the patient's ability to do well in his treatments and the appropriateness of the doctor's behavior were measured, as well as the Big Five personality traits necessary for a successful cancer patient counselor to possess.