Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 3-19-2020

Document Type



Sisley, R., Votruba, A., & Bartz, L. 2020. Effects of Warmth/Competence on Legal Dispute Resolution in a Medical Error Context. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Rachel Sisley 2020.


This study investigated the influence of the perceived warmth and competence of a physician on preference for dispute resolution mechanisms (litigation, mediation, negotiation, etc.) and motivations for proceeding with legal action in a medical error context. The warmth and competence of a physician were the key variables of interest because the Stereotype Content Model demonstrates the importance of these characteristics within interpersonal impressions and exchanges. The relationship between motivations for taking legal action against a physician and preference for litigation was investigated as well. The vignettes used in this study described a fictional medical error case and the different versions manipulated the physician’s behavior to influence perceptions of warmth and competence. Questions assessing preference for legal action and importance of specific motivating factors were also included. Several hypotheses were supported. When both warmth and competence are high, individuals preferred litigation the least. When warmth was low, participants are more likely to prefer mediation. When the motives of punishment, financial compensation, and future prevention are rated as more important litigation was the preferred form of dispute resolution. The importance of punishment and financial compensation as a motivating factor was influenced by the perceived warmth of the physician. These findings are important because they demonstrate the importance of social perception for litigation decision.