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Personality predicts success in medical school, says new study by U of Minnesota professor
Date:12/3/2009

Personality characteristics play a major role in determining who succeeds in medical school, according to new research published in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology. The study, co-authored by University of Minnesota psychology professor Deniz Ones, followed an entire cohort of Belgian students through their seven-year medical school career, investigating which personal characteristics contribute to learning and performance in general.

During the early, pre-clinical years, where success is mostly defined in terms of learning in basic science courses (e.g., biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, physiology), conscientious individuals do much better than those who display lower levels of this trait, especially achievement striving and dependability. During this time, extraversion (being active, energetic and sociable) is detrimental to success most likely because it detracts attention away from learning endeavors, say researchers.

However, the study, conducted by Ones (U of M), Filip Lievens (Ghent University) and Stephan Dilchert (Baruch College, CUNY), revealed some interesting patterns among the over 600 students who participated. Students completed a standardized personality test at the beginning of their studies. Success was measured in terms of end-of-year grades over a seven-year time-span after which half of the students persisted to graduate.

As the curriculum changed over the years, interpersonal aspects (for example, performance during internships or patient interaction) became more important for success. While conscientiousness continued to relate to high grades, other personality traits also became important. Extraverted individuals (those who were assertive and warm) also received high grades in later years. The same pattern was displayed for agreeableness, which includes traits such as altruism. Students who exhibited these characteristics did drastically better in medical school than those who
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Contact: Ryan Maus
maus@umn.edu
612-624-1690
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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