The Don Quixote Effect: Why Going to the Movies Can Help Develop Empathy and Altruism in Medical Students and Residents

Johanna Shapiro, PhD, Lloyd Rucker, MD

Physicians at all levels of training sometimes feel more emotionally moved when viewing a movie about a patient than when treating a similar patient in an actual clinical encounter. The authors consider the relationship of mainstream movies to medicine in general, then explore factors that might deferentially influence emotional responses in each setting. They posit a conceptual model, the Don Quixote effect, to explain the aforementioned phenomenon. Specifically, they argue that going to the movies can produce an emotional idealism that may help physician viewers achieve more positive attitudes of empathy and altruism.

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