Personality differences between doctors and their patients: implications for the teaching of communication skills

Med Educ. 2004 Feb;38(2):177-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2004.01752.x.


Objective: To establish, as part of a wider study into specialty choice and job satisfaction, whether the personality profiles of a sample of doctors differed from those of the UK population at large, i.e. their potential patients, and the implications this might have for the doctor/patient consultation process.

Design: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which measures normal personality differences, was administered by post to five cohorts of doctors (n = 464) who had qualified from a London medical school during the 1980s.

Setting: United Kingdom.

Participants: 313 (67.5%) of the medical graduates.

Main outcome measures: Personality profiles of the respondents compared to those of the UK adult population norms, a proxy for their potential patients.

Results: The doctors in this sample differed significantly from the UK adult population norms on most of the dimensions of personality measured, including those which measure an individual's preferred mode of perception, i.e. how one likes to take in information and learn about things. This suggests potential points for miscommunication in the doctor/patient consultation process.

Conclusions: This research should be replicated to see if the results are generalizable. Nevertheless, the findings do indicate that these doctors might benefit from education in the concept of psychological type differences and how these could affect communication with their patients. Training in how to "flex" their consultation style, when necessary, to take into account possible personality differences between themselves and their patients could enhance the outcome of the interaction for both parties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Communication*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personality*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • United Kingdom