Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 437–439 | Cite as

The Treachery of Images: How René Magritte Informs Medical Education

  • Delese WearEmail author
  • Joseph Zarconi


Using René Magritte’s well-known painting The Treachery of Images (This is not a pipe), we argue that the current focus on competencies throughout medical education can sometimes lead educators to rely too heavily on scores, checkmarks, or other forms of assessment that come to be viewed as equivalents for the actual existence of what is being measured. Magritte insisted that the image he created on the canvas was not a pipe but rather a representation of a pipe, an important distinction for educators to remember as we seek ways to evaluate trainees’ attainment of the fundamental knowledge and skills of the profession. We also urge that the focus on broader skills, values, flexibility, reflection, and insight development should fall outside the net of a competency orientation in a supportive environment spared from traditional assessment methods, using a classroom in undergraduate medical education as an example of working toward this end.


medical education assessment competency 


Conflict of Interest

None disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Behavioral and Community Health SciencesNortheastern Ohio Universities College of MedicineRootstownUSA
  2. 2.Medical EducationSumma Health SystemAkronUSA
  3. 3.Internal MedicineNortheastern Ohio Universities College of MedicineRootstownUSA

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