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Do medical students who are multilingual have higher spatial and verbal intelligence and do they perform better in anatomy examinations?

Stephens, Shiby and Moxham, Bernard 2019. Do medical students who are multilingual have higher spatial and verbal intelligence and do they perform better in anatomy examinations? Clinical Anatomy 32 (1) , pp. 26-34. 10.1002/ca.23280

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We have already reported that medical students who have prior knowledge of classical Greek and Latin perform better in anatomy examinations. It has also been shown that fluency in more than one language can influence spatial and verbal intelligence and here we hypothesize that medical students who have linguistic skills develop higher spatial and verbal intelligence compared with monolingual students, that there are gender differences, and that there are positive effects on performance in anatomy examinations. One hundred and seventy‐three second year medical students at Cardiff University responded to spatial and verbal intelligence questions that were adapted from the British MENSA website. This is a 63% response rate for the student cohort. The students were then categorized into different groups depending upon their linguistic knowledge and skills. Across all groups, no gender differences were discerned for either spatial or verbal intelligence. Students who were categorized as monolingual (with only skills in English) had lower spatial and verbal intelligence than those who were multilingual. Medical students who had fluency in English and non‐European languages showed greater spatial and verbal intelligence than other groups. However, there was no significant improvement in their examination marks for anatomy, although the examination performance might be complicated by cultural considerations. A further finding from our study was that, where an anatomy test required spatial recognition using cadaveric specimens, students with low spatial intelligence had significantly poorer performances. Furthermore, where tests used multiple choice questions, the level of spatial and verbal intelligences had no influence. We would advocate that, when all newly‐recruited medical students are tutored in medical terminologies to help them develop the extensive vocabulary required for their professional careers, they should also be made aware of any deficiencies in spatial and verbal skills that could affect their learning abilities. Given that we would expect students to benefit in their careers from developing spatial and verbal skills, we also recommend that examination tests in anatomy should avoid the exclusive use of multiple choice questions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0897-3806
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 November 2018
Date of Acceptance: 18 September 2018
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2022 21:18

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