eCite Digital Repository

Trust, communication, theory of mind and the social brain hypothesis: Deep explanations for what goes wrong in health care


Braithwaite, J and Iedema, R and Jorm, C, Trust, communication, theory of mind and the social brain hypothesis: Deep explanations for what goes wrong in health care, Journal of Health Organization and Management, 21, (4-5) pp. 353-367. ISSN 1477-7266 (2007) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1108/14777260710778899


PURPOSE: The purpose of the paper is to examine the deep conceptual underpinnings of trust and communication breakdowns via selected health inquiries into things that go wrong using evolutionary psychology.

DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: This paper explains how this is carried out, and explores some of the adverse consequences for patient care. Evolutionary psychology provides a means of explaining important mental capacities and constructs including theory of mind and the social brain hypothesis. To have a theory of mind is to be able to read others' behaviours, linguistic and non-verbal cues, and analyse their intentions. To have a social (or Machiavellian) brain means being able to assess, compete with and, where necessary, outwit others. In the tough and complex environment of the contemporary health setting, not too different from the Pleistocene, humans display a well-developed theory of mind and social brains and, using mental attributes and behavioural repertoires evolved for the deep past in hunter-gatherer bands, survive and thrive in difficult circumstances.

FINDINGS: The paper finds that, while such behaviours cannot be justified, armed with an evolutionary approach one can predict survival mechanisms such as turf protection, competitive strategies, sending transgressors and whistleblowers to Coventry, self-interest, and politics and tribal behaviours.

ORIGINALITY/VALUE: The paper shows that few studies examine contemporary health sector behaviours through an evolutionary psychology lens or via such deep accounts of human nature.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Communication; Culture; Politics; Trust
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Health and community services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Evaluation of health and support services
Objective Field:Evaluation of health outcomes
UTAS Author:Iedema, R (Professor Rick Iedema)
ID Code:96589
Year Published:2007
Deposited By:Health Sciences B
Deposited On:2014-11-12
Last Modified:2014-11-12

Repository Staff Only: item control page