The Generation Game

//The Generation Game
The Generation Game 2017-08-22T08:50:48+00:00

Whilst the idea of a generation is not new, recent years have seen the growth of studies of generational cohorts, the similarities within these cohorts and the differences between them. Different generations have different psychological and sociological characteristics, and differences in these factors between generations can lead to misunderstanding or even tension. This poster considers some of the implications of this theory for medical education. Whilst the exact dates differ, post-WWII generations are usually divided:

Baby boomers: 1946- 1963

Core values: distrust of authority, liberal, orientated towards social causes, cynical, individuality and personal style, less tied to tradition than predecessors

Generation X: 1963-1984

Core values: entrepeneural, value social diversity, freedom and dignity, work through pressure groups

Generation Y: 1984-2000

Confident, tolerant, narcissistic, optimistic, sense of entitlement, want to make a difference, less independent and may have ‘helicopter parents’.

It has been noted that this may be a Western, socio-ethnic phenomenon and different cultures may differ.

Gen Y are said to:

  1. Be more comfortable with portfolio careers than earlier generations
  2. Have unrealistic expectations about employment
  3. Be socially integrated, extensively and creatively
  4. Be more comfortable with technology – ‘digitally native’
  5. Be comfortable with multitasking, particularly with digital media

So what are the implications for medical education? Some ideas:

  • There may be a degree of intergenerational estrangement, e.g. over the use of digital media in the workplace
  • They may demand and respond to feedback, whilst not valuing imposed methods e.g.WBAs
  • There may be a discrepancy between self report and performance
  • They may seek responsibility and involvement beyond that which the ‘older’ generation thinks is appropriate
  • They may appreciate and respond to the creative use of digital tools in education, e.g. twitter, game theory


1. Alsop, Ron (2008-10-21). “The Trophy Kids Go to Work”. The Wall Street Journal.
2. Biggs, Simon (2007). “Thinking about generations: Conceptual positions and policy implications.”. Journal of Social Issues 63 (4): 695–711.
3. Elton, C (2012) Parental Guidance? BMJ Careers11 Sept 2012
4. Twenge, Jean (2006). Generation Me. New York, NY: Free Press (Simon & Schuster).