Objective To assess how the passage of Portuguese speakers through selected undergraduate university courses relates to conceptions of the words accident and injury.
Methods Web-based survey of first and last-year students of medical, law, communication and education schools; investigation of associations/correspondence between attributes and conceptions through geometric data analysis.
Results Study sample comprised 1450 subjects. Perceptual maps evidenced significant variation of conceptions of accident and injury according to different courses and stages. Subjects unanimously associated injury with moral damage; medical students were in stark opposition to others in associating injury with physical damage. The word lesion evoked equivalent conceptions of physical, moral and material damage. Law students associated accident with negligence and defamation. Education students associated accident with death. The word accident evoked the notion of preventability to 85.1% of subjects, foreseeability to 50.3%, death to 15.1% and intentionality to 2.3%. First-year students associated accident with non-previsibility; last-year students were significantly distinct.
Conclusions Within the injury field, geometric data analysis efficaciously evinces correspondences and denotes significant associations among categorical variable modalities. A conceptual framework of injury as a nosologic entity should acknowledge the terminologisation of the word injury in the medical realm, and concede the subtleties of lay signification of the word accident as an anteceding, unintentional, and preventable event, potentially causing injury. In Portuguese medical language, there is a definition of specific semantic spaces for the terms lesion (with the acception of anatomopathological damage without external causation) and injury (with the acception of physical damage, with or without lesion).
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