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The impact of color and role on retention of knowledge: A body-painting study within undergraduate medicine



Body painting as a tool for teaching anatomy is becoming increasingly popular as it is fun and diffuses the formal academic context. Students claim bright color plays a significant role in retention of knowledge from painting sessions. Medical students (n = 117) were divided into two conditions: block color (CLR) and black outlines (BLK). Students completed a pre-test before a body painting teaching session on abdominal referred pain. CLR students used bright block colors, and BLK students mapped outlines in black. Immediately afterward, students sat a mid-test to compare the conditions. Students completed a post-test to compare long-term retention of knowledge four weeks later. There was no difference in knowledge between the two conditions immediately after the teaching (P = 0.653). There was no significant difference in long-term retention of knowledge between those using black outlines and those using color (P = 0.278). The use of color had no impact on short-term or long-term retention of knowledge, despite previously collected qualitative data that color helped memorization. Despite there being no immediate difference in the amount of information retained, the students' enthusiasm for body painting and the use of bold colors warrant body painting's inclusion within the anatomy curriculum. Acceptability plays a significant role in the success of any teaching modality. Additionally, students who undertook the roles of painter or canvas retained similar amounts of information after six weeks (P = 0.505). Students' classification as verbalizer or visualizer did not impact on their test performance. Anat Sci Educ. © 2011 American Association of Anatomists.