Psychology Publications

Personality Perceptions of Medical School Applicants

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Medical Education Online



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Purpose: To examine the extent to which medical school interviewers consider perceptions of applicant personality traits during a semi-structured panel interview, the interrater reliability of assessments, and the impact of such perceptions on individual admission decisions.

Method: Semi-structured panel interviews were conducted with applicants to the Doctor of Medicine Program at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. Interviewers also provided voluntary, “research only” ratings of applicants on nine relevant personality traits. Data from 345 applicants under consideration for admission were available for analysis.

Results: Significant correlations were observed between personality ratings and important operational variables (e.g., interview scores). Applicants who were most likely to be admitted to the program were perceived as high on certain traits (i.e., Achievement, Nurturance, Endurance, Cognitive Structure, & Order) and low on other traits (i.e., Abasement, Aggression, & Impulsivity). Statistically removing variance shared with personality ratings from interview scores resulted in different admission decisions for over 40% of the applicants. Interrater reliabilities for personality perceptions were relatively low. However, interrater reliability of the panel interview used to make admission decisions was acceptable. Nonlinear relations between personality perceptions and interview scores were also explored.

Conclusion: Some evidence was found that interviewers’ perceptions of applicant personality may affect their judgments when assigning interview ratings. Given that non-cognitive characteristics are perceived as important in the admissions process and that perceptions of personality traits have implications for decisions about which candidates to admit, suggestions for identifying desirable non-cognitive characteristics and for increasing the quality of assessments are offered.

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