Coherent biomedical knowledge of the human body plays a crucial role in patient care. If medical students hold onto misconceptions, and continue to ascribe to unscientific knowledge, it could impact on clinical reasoning. Although there is empirical evidence of biomedical misconceptions, specifically in the domain of physiology, there is surprisingly little evidence of the survival of these misconceptions in a curriculum. This thesis addressed the theme of biomedical misconceptions in a medical curriculum. We conducted four studies at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa which explored the nature and extent of misconceptions, particularly pertaining to anatomy and physiology. The overall aim of these studies was to systematically dissect the notion of misconceptions by providing scientific evidence of domains where common misconceptions exist, as well as by showing how cognitive actions during the knowledge construction process can lead to misconceptions. In this regard, the studies address two key themes. They are: (1) the frequency, that is the extent, of biomedical misconceptions across domains in a medical curriculum, and (2) the nature, that is, the sources from where these misconceptions arise. Results from the studies indicated that a considerable proportion of senior medical students still display a range of biomedical misconceptions. Misconceptions identified in the four studies, pertaining to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and homeostatic processes, are potentially disastrous for clinical practice. In all the studies we used methodologies that would lead to significant findings, and our findings have further been linked to a theoretical framework to explain the knowledge construction process. The contribution of this thesis is twofold, namely (1) drawing on our empirical results to provide a model towards understanding what is at the core of misconceptions, and (2) recommending a research strategy to identify and describe biomedical misconceptions.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Biomedical Misconceptions “medical students”
Promotor H.G. Schmidt (Henk) , S. Mamede (Silvia)
Publisher Erasmus University Rotterdam
Persistent URL
Note For copyright reasons there is a (partial) embargo for this dissertation
Badenhorst, E.S. (2019, March 7). Dissecting misconceptions : Exploring the extent and nature of medical students’ failure to understand. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from

Additional Files
Badenhorst-propositions.pdf , 13kb