Communication skills training in medical students: Do motivational orientations predict changes over time in psychosocial attributes?

Nir Madjar, Talma Kushnir, Yaacov G. Bachner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Perceived psychosocial abilities (i.e., competence in addressing the psychosocial aspects of patient care) and low frustration tolerance (LFT) (i.e., intolerance of physical or emotional discomfort) have been established as significant attributes of experienced medical professionals. We aimed to expand our understanding of the role motivation plays within communication skills training by investigating whether motivation precedes or, conversely, follows psychosocial attributes. According to goal orientations theory, motivation denotes the goals students pursue when engaging in learning tasks. We hypothesized that goal orientations would predict development of psychosocial attributes. More specifically, an adaptive goal orientation (i.e., mastery goal orientation) was expected to predict perceived psychosocial abilities, whereas the maladaptive goal orientations (i.e., performance-approach and avoidance goal orientations) were hypothesized to predict LFT (frustration intolerance). The study spanned two sequential years, in which two cohorts of first-year medical students (N = 151) completed questionnaires at the beginning and end of an annual physician-patient communication course. The questionnaires assessed goal orientations, perceived psychosocial abilities, and LFT. Cross-lagged analyses using Structural Equation Modeling indicated that goal orientations significantly predicted perceived psychosocial abilities, as hypothesized; however, LFT predicted maladaptive goal orientation, rather than the other way around. These findings provided further support for the contribution of goal orientations theory within medical education contexts. Medical schools are advised to consider motivational aspects when planning and implementing training programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-57
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication skills
  • Goal orientations
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Motivation
  • Psychosocial abilities


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