The role of emotion in the learning and transfer of clinical skills and knowledge

Acad Med. 2012 Oct;87(10):1316-22. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182675af2.


Purpose: Medical school and residency are emotional experiences for trainees. Most research examining emotion in medicine has focused on negative moods associated with physician burnout and poor quality of life. However, positive emotional states also may have important influences on student learning and performance. The authors present a review of the literature on the influence of emotion on cognition, specifically how individuals learn complex skills and knowledge and how they transfer that information to new scenarios.

Method: From September 2011 to February 2012, the authors searched Medline, PsycInfo, GoogleScholar, ERIC, and Web of Science, as well as the reference lists of relevant articles, for research on the interaction between emotion, learning, and knowledge transfer. They extracted representative themes and noted particularly relevant empirical findings.

Results: The authors found articles that show that emotion influences various cognitive processes that are involved in the acquisition and transfer of knowledge and skills. More specifically, emotion influences how individuals identify and perceive information, how they interpret it, and how they act on the information available in learning and practice situations.

Conclusions: There are many ways in which emotions may influence medical education. Researchers must further explore the implications of these findings to ensure that learning is not treated simply as a rational, mechanistic process but that trainees are effectively prepared to perform under a wide range of emotional conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cognition*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Students, Medical / psychology*