First-year medical students' naive beliefs about respiratory physiology

E Badenhorst, Silvia Mamede Studart Soares, A Abrahams, K Bugarith, J Friedling, G Gunston, R Kelly-Laubscher, Henk Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The present study explored the nature and frequency of physiology naive beliefs by investigating novices' understanding of the respiratory system. Previous studies have shown considerable misconceptions related to physiology but focused mostly on specific physiological processes of normal respiration. Little is known about novices' broader understanding of breathing in a clinical context. Our study hypothesized that naive beliefs could hamper participants' ability to understand the interrelatedness of respiratory structures and functions related to breathing during a clinical complication. The study entailed both quantitative and qualitative foci. A two-tier test was designed and administered to 211 first-year medical students. Participants were asked to choose the correct answer out of a set of four options and to substantiate their choices. Questions were purposefully left open to elicit a wide range of responses. Statistical analysis (SPSS) was done to evaluate the frequency of naive beliefs. Thematic analysis was used to determine themes within the raw data. The majority of participants selected incorrect answers in the multiple-choice question part of the questionnaire. Results from the thematic analysis yielded a considerable range of naive beliefs about gas exchange, foundational physics, airflow, anatomic structures, and breathing pathways. An awareness of the existence of such naive beliefs in respiratory physiology will allow educators to address them in their teaching and thereby prevent naive beliefs transforming into misconceptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-348
Number of pages7
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Research programs

  • EMC OR-01-68-01


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