Categories by Heart: Shortcut Reasoning in a Cardiology Clinic
This article examines the practice of doctors and nurses to invoke the categories of age, sex, class, ethnicity, and/or lifestyle factors when discussing individual patients and patient groups. In what situations are such references explicitly made, and what does this practice accomplish? The material consists of field notes from a cardiology clinic in Sweden, and a theory of descriptive practice guided the analysis. When professionals describe patients, discuss decisions, or explain why a patient is ill, age, sex, class, ethnicity, and/or lifestyle serve as contextualization cues, often including widespread results from epidemiological research about groups of patients at higher or lower risk for cardiac disease. These categories work as shortcut reasoning to nudge interpretations in a certain direction, legitimize decisions, and strengthen arguments. In general, studying the descriptions of patients/clients/students provides an entrance to professional methods of reasoning, including their implicit moral assumptions.
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