Altruism revisited: a comparison of medical, law and business students' altruistic attitudes

Med Educ. 2007 Apr;41(4):341-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2007.02716.x.


Objective: Although the concept of altruism in medicine has a long tradition in Western thought, little empirical research has been carried out recently in this area. This study compares the altruistic attitudes of medical, legal and business students.

Methods: We used a cross-sectional survey to compare the altruistic attitudes of 3 types of contemporary 'professional' students, those in medicine, law and business.

Results: The results suggest that medical students report more altruistic attitudes than legal students, but not than business students. Overall, female students reported stronger attitudes consistent with altruism compared with males; African-American and Hispanic students reported more altruistic attitudes compared with White students.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the recent trend in recruiting more women and under-represented minority group members into medicine may have a positive impact on altruism in the profession, if we can assume that attitudes correlate with behaviours.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Altruism*
  • Commerce*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Legislation as Topic*
  • Male
  • Students / psychology*