The effect of waiting on aggressive tendencies toward emergency department staff: Providing information can help but may also backfire

Dorit Efrat-Treister, Hadar Moriah, Anat Rafaeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Waiting is inevitable for customers of service organizations, yet having to wait can trigger aggression by care receivers toward hospital staff. We explore the effect of waiting times on care receivers' sense of procedural justice and aggressive tendencies, and show the attenuating effects of providing explanatory information. Methods Data were collected using survey responses in two studies, both conducted in the waiting area of a large hospital emergency department. Study 1 (n = 328) was a quasi-experiment involving an intervention in which care receivers were provided with information about wait times. Study 1 included three phases: (1) pre-test (week 1, n = 98), in which no information was provided; (2) information condition (weeks 2 & 3, n = 155), in which information was provided through large signs and pamphlets; and (3) post-test (week 4, n = 75), in which no information was provided. Study 2 (n = 99) was conducted a year later and involved the same information provision as the intervention stage of Study 1. Results The longer the wait duration, the lower care receivers' procedural justice perceptions and the greater their aggressive tendencies. Information provision moderated the association, such that receiving information reduced aggressive tendencies during shorter waits but increased aggressive tendencies during longer waits. We show these effects in two separate data collections, conducted one year apart. Conclusion Competing theories predict that explanatory information should variously reduce and increase aggressive tendencies among people waiting in a queue. Our findings resolve this contradiction by identifying boundaries for the effectiveness of providing information in reducing aggression. We show that providing information is likely to reduce aggression until such point as the wait duration becomes longer than expected based on the information provided.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0227729
Pages (from-to)e0227729
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Adult
  • Aggression/psychology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital/organization & administration
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Social Justice/psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires/statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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