healthHealth and Medicine

Our Knowledge Of Basic Human Anatomy Is Awful, Study Concludes


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Note: this is not where the heart is supposed to be located. everytime/Shutterstock

Ever wondered where your heart is exactly, or your stomach? Okay, how about your small intestines, or your kidneys? What about your diaphragm, your liver, or your gallbladder? You may have a rough idea, but there’s a solid chance that you might not be as knowledgeable about basic human anatomy as you think.

Recently, a team at Lancaster University in the UK wanted to find out if people knew where 20 non-obscure parts of the body were located. A small group of 63 volunteers comprising men and women of various ages (mean age, 36.5 years) were given an outline of a person; they were then asked to label roughly where they suspected these organs, muscles, and ligaments might be.


You’ll be pleased to know that, according to the report in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, 100 percent of people successfully located the brain. The rest of the results were fairly mixed, however.

The cornea was one of the most easily identified parts, with more than 90 percent of both male and female participants getting this right. Over 80 percent knew where the biceps and thyroid gland were.

More than 70 percent knew where the lungs were, although we’d love to know where the 30 percent of those that didn’t thought their breathing bags were located.

Things like the spleen, gallbladder, adrenal glands, and the pancreas evaded detection most often. No more than 30 percent of people knew where the spleen was located, for example.


Curiously, men scored higher than women when it came to identifying muscles, but not when it came to identifying human organs, generally speaking.

Just over 80 percent of male participants knew where the triceps were located, but just over 50 percent of female participants did, for example. When it came to the spleen, twice as many female subjects knew where it was compared to males.

As expected, and to everyone’s relief, those in healthcare were far better at this little game than those that weren’t. Still, our awareness of our basic biological architecture is clearly lackluster, something which is lamented by the research team.

This pancreas is very disappointed in you all. Shidlovski/Shutterstock

“Public knowledge of the anatomical 'self' is lacking and evidence points towards a growing need for anatomy education to the wider public,” the authors surmised in their study.


“The current study demonstrates the general public’s eagerness to learn anatomy despite their limited knowledge of the human body, and the need for widening participation,” they explained, adding that “it raises an awareness of the anatomical literacy needs of the general public, especially in school children and young adults.”

[H/T: Popular Science]


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