Context and Causal Structure Enhance Memory for Clinical Details


Current research suggests a facilitatory role for basic biomedical knowledge in learning and retaining concepts related to medical diagnosis. But learning and performance may be influenced by other knowledge as well. Accordingly, we examined the effects of foundational knowledge beyond basic biomedical science on the learning and retention of medical information. Subjects were asked to study a handout detailing a percussive chest exam and several respiratory disorders. One group was presented with the information in a standard "textbook" format and the other group was presented with foundational knowledge about how sound travels though solids and liquids. The foundational knowledge group outperformed the control group in a memory task. We suggest that these subjects were able to create causal links between the information to be learned and the foundational knowledge which made the critical information more memorable.

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