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Postgrad Med J. 2016 Aug;92(1090):441-6. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2015-133478. Epub 2016 Feb 10.

Association between personality traits and future choice of specialisation among Swedish doctors: a cross-sectional study.

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Department of Clinical Science and Education, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Clinical Science and Education, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatry Research and Education, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Medical students' choice of their future specialty is influenced by several factors, including working conditions and type of patient relations. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between the choice of specialty and personality traits.


This is a cross-sectional questionnaire-based study of 399 alumni from Karolinska Institutet Medical School who were assumed to undergo specialty training at the time of the survey in 2013. The Big Five Inventory was used to assess the personality traits extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. Medical specialties were categorised as primary care, psychiatry, internal medicine and surgical and hospital service specialties. Adjustments were made for demographic factors and the method of selection for medical school admission.


The response rate was 72% (n=289, of which 262 were in training to become specialists). Among these, surgeons scored lower in agreeableness than physicians in primary care, internal medicine and hospital services. Psychiatrists and hospital service physicians showed lower conscientiousness compared with surgeons.


We found distinctive differences in personality traits between medical specialties even after adjusting for other potential explanatory variables. Since there are differences between specialties, for example, surgeons and psychiatrists, this supports previous findings that personality may affect medical students' specialty choice also in a Swedish setting.


Big Five Inventory; EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training); Five Factor Model; MEDICAL EDUCATION & TRAINING; Personality; Specialization

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