Ways of knowing in family medicine: contributions from a feminist perspective

Lucy M. Candib, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Document Type Article


Feminist psychologists have recently drawn a distinction between separate and connected knowing, two different ways of finding out about the world. Family medicine practice uses connected knowing to discover, through empathy, what another person may be experiencing; in contrast, family medicine research, in order to gain academic credibility, relies on separate knowing, typical of scientific thinking. These two ways of knowing have been variously described by Bruner as paradigmatic vs. narrative, by Kuzel as rationalistic vs. naturalistic, and by Stephens as seeing vs. hearing. The two ways of knowing vary in their use of context, time span, believability, and empathy. Family medicine, in a parallel with women who are finding their voice in a world which has not respected them, must come to blend the two ways of knowing. We can begin reframing our research questions by drawing on knowledge of our intimate, long-term connections with patients, thus underscoring the importance of the knower and the relationship with the known.