Right-left discrimination among medical students: questionnaire and psychometric study

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Abstract

Objective

To determine medical students’ self awareness and ability to discriminate right from left; to identify characteristics associated with this ability; and to identify any techniques used to aid discrimination.

Design

Questionnaire and psychometric study.

Setting

Undergraduate medical school, Northern Ireland.

Participants

290 first year undergraduate students.

Main outcome measure

Medical students’ ability to discriminate right from left using the Bergen right-left discrimination test.

Results

Test scores ranged from 31 to 143 on a scale of 0–144 (mean 112 (standard deviation 22.2)). Male students significantly outperformed female students (117.18 (26.96) v 110.80 (28.94)). Students who wanted to be surgeons performed significantly better than those who wanted to be general practitioners or medical doctors (119.87 (25.15) v 110.55 (27.36) v 112.50 (26.88)). The interaction effect for sex and career wishes was not significant (P=0.370). Students who used learnt techniques to help them discriminate scored significantly less than those who did not (P<0.001). Students had greater difficulty in discriminating right from left when looking at the forward view rather than the back view (P<0.001).

Conclusions

Male students were better than female students at distinguishing right from left, and aspiring surgeons were better than aspiring general practitioners or medical doctors. Students had more difficulty with the forward view than the back view.

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