Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Doctors' personalities

A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology and reported in Science Daily looked at the relationship between extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness and grade success in one entire cohort in a Belgian medical school, a 7-year process that 300 of 600 students finished.

It is not surprising that conscientiousness is highly correlated with good grades in med school. You have to sit down and study a lot. Extraversion was a handicap in the first year or two, but then it became an advantage, as did agreeableness.

What strikes me as interesting about this is not the results but the corollary that, to the extent that personality is ummutable, you could pick those who would be successful at med school when they are in preschool. I wonder if conscientiousness is a trait that stays the same, as extraversion and some others do.

If you could pick preschoolers who would or would not be successful at med school, would you treat them any differently? What would you do to make a kid more conscientious? Or would you steer the kid to a field that requires less conscientiousness?

One more question in a list that grows with each thing we learn to predict.

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