Emotional intelligence and medical specialty choice: Findings from three empirical studies

Nicole J. Borges, Terry D. Stratton, Peggy J. Wagner, Carol L. Elam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Context Despite only modest evidence linking personality-type variables to medical specialty choice, stereotypes involving empathy and 'emotional connectedness' persist, especially between primary care providers and surgeons or subspecialists. This paper examines emotional intelligence (EI) and specialty choice among students at three US medical schools. Methods Results from three independent studies are presented. Study 1 used the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT'™) administered to a single cohort of 84 Year 4 medical students. Study 2 used the Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS) and Davis' Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) administered to three cohorts (n = 250) of Year 3 medical students. Study 3 used the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-I®) administered to two cohorts of Year 1 medical students (n = 292). Results were linked to specialty choice data retrieved from the National Residency Match Program (NRMP). Classifications of specialty choice included: (i) primary care (family practice, internal medicine, paediatrics) versus non-primary care (all others), and (ii) primary care, hospital-based specialties (anaesthesiology, emergency medicine, pathology, radiology), and technical and surgical specialties (neurology, obstetrics and gynaecology, ophthalmology, and all surgical fields). Conclusions Across all three studies - and using both classifications of specialty choice - no significant differences in EI were found between students entering primary care and non-primary care specialties. Limitations are acknowledged, and future directions for research involving EI are identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-572
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotional intelligence and medical specialty choice: Findings from three empirical studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this