Previous research provides evidence that stigma can be perpetuated through language with consequences for well-being and quality of care. For example, providers who use stigmatizing language transmit bias toward patients with implications for care provided by other healthcare professionals. The current work extends upon this research by investigating perceptions of physicians who use stigmatizing or humanizing language. The current work sought to document the negative consequences of providers’ indelicate language on impressions of the provider, thereby motivating thoughtful language choices. To this end, the current work experimentally manipulated the language (stigmatizing, identity-first and destigmatizing, person-first) that hypothetical providers used to describe individuals with substance use disorder and examined participants’ judgments of the providers (likeability and positive behavioral intentions). We predicted that the provider using stigmatizing, identity-first language would elicit more
negative responses than the provider using destigmatizing, person-first language. However, the results provided no support for this hypothesis; instead, we observed only an effect of the vignette content: participants had more positive perceptions of the physician who spoke first, compared to the physician who spoke second. Although the current work did not observe significant effects of language, past work indicates the importance of empathy, warmth, and respect from providers for patient well-being and outcome. We suggest directions for improving upon the current study, as well as possible topics for future research that may aid in understanding these important antecedents of inclusive and successful patient-physician interactions.