Sociology ETDs


Amanda Seeman

Publication Date



The historical establishment of medicine as a profession laid the foundation on which it claims dominance and authority over medical decision-making. Through scientific discoveries and a state-recognized monopoly over medical work, doctors were able to subdue patients during doctor/patient interactions and conceal specialized knowledge from the public. Ritualized doctor/patient interactions are characterized as expert physician decision-making for passive compliant patients. However, the democratization of information on the internet has disrupted the ritual interactions of doctors and patients by granting open access to specialized medical knowledge. Internet informed patients bring their own knowledge to clinical encounters and use it to be actively involved, redefining their traditional role in doctor/patient interactions. Doctors usually respond to internet informed patients in two ways based on the literature: they support and accept active informed patients as the new normal, referred to as ritual change; or, physicians reinforce traditional roles that restrict direct involvement of patients in medicine, referred to as ritual conflict. Responses reflect the ideological position of physicians regarding patient information seeking online and strategically work to embrace or refuse active patient behaviors. This research explores the historical evolution of the medical profession, the establishment of ritualized encounters, and the disruption of ritual interactions in the era of internet.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Whooley, Owen

Second Committee Member

Barker, Kristin


Internet, doctor/patient interactions, medical sociology



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