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

Ian D. Coulter, Michael S Wilkes, Claudia Der-Martirosian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-345
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • *Altruism
  • *Attitude
  • *Education, medical, undergraduate
  • *Jurisprudence
  • Commerce/*education
  • Comparative study [publication type]
  • Cross-sectional studies
  • Female
  • Male
  • Students/*psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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