How Biomedical Misconceptions May Arise and Affect Medical Students׳ Learning: A Review of Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Evidence

Research paper by Elmi Badenhorst, Nadia Hartman, Sílvia Mamede

Indexed on: 07 Oct '16Published on: 06 May '16Published in: Health Professions Education


The debate on whether biomedical knowledge contributes significantly to the clinical reasoning process is on-going. Despite this debate, one cannot underestimate that subjects such as anatomy and physiology play a key role in the understanding of the human body. Misconceptions that exist or arise in biomedical subjects, such as physiology and anatomy, can impact on the learning processes of medical students. The present paper presents an overview of research in the field of biomedical misconceptions and consists of two parts. First, the authors draw on three theoretical frameworks, constructivism, concept formation and element interactivity in complex reasoning, to offer insight as to why misconceptions in biomedical subjects could potentially arise and exist. In the second part, the authors synthesize empirical studies on biomedical misconceptions that draw on similar theoretical frameworks. The limited research available in this field suggests that the three theories discussed in this paper do provide valuable insights into how misconceptions in anatomy and physiology can hamper coherent knowledge construction, and potentially play an obstructive role when students are required to perform complex cognitive tasks such as clinical reasoning.