Research Day

Prosocial Behavior Of Medical Students: An Experiment Using The Trust Game

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OBJECTIVE: Very little research has been conducted on the pro-social behavior of medical students. But given that medical students must be prepared to function in a fiduciary relationship-a relationship in which one party puts the interests of the other party ahead of their own-pro-social behaviors such as trust and altruism are critical to the therapeutic alliance. Thus, we sought to investigate the pro-social behavior of medical students.

METHODS: To observe medical students' pro-social behavior, we used the trust game. Subjects are endowed with a fund, which they must invest with another player. That investment is tripled and given to the other player. The other player must then return some percentage of that fund to the investor. The values selected are supposed to be measures of pro-social behavior. We compare the medical students' behavior with that of law students in the same game.

RESULTS: Medical students, on average exhibited slightly higher trusting behavior, measured by the amount they chose to invest, than exhibited in the literature average. They exhibited levels of altruism similar to that of the literature average. However, while the averages were similar to the literature average, the distribution of pro-social behavior was not normal-approximately half the medical students were strongly trusting and altruistic and the other half was weakly trusting and altruistic.

CONCLUSION: Medical students, overall, may be very similar to the literature average, they display divergent pro-social behavior. Curriculum and remediation in professionalism should therefore accommodate these patterns.

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