Treatment recommendations as actions

Tanya Stivers, John Heritage, Rebecca Barnes, Rose McCabe, Laura Thompson, Merran Gurney Toerien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From the earliest studies of doctor-patient interaction (Byrne & Long, 1976), it has been recognized that treatment recommendations may be expressed in more or less authoritative ways, based on their design and delivery. There are clear differences between I’m going to start you on X and We can give you X to try and Would you like me to give you X? Yet little is known about this variation, its contexts, or its consequences. In this paper, we develop a basic taxonomy of treatment recommendations in primary care as a first step toward a more comprehensive investigation. We take as our point of departure the observation that treatment recommendations such as those above represent not only different formulations but also different social actions. We distinguish five main treatment recommendation actions: pronouncements, suggestions, proposals, offers, and assertions. We ask: what are the main dimensions on which these recommendations vary and to what end? And what sorts of factors shape a clinician’s use of one action type over another with respect to recommending a medication in the primary care context?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1335-1344
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number11
Early online date17 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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