Dual-Coding Theory

Dual coding theory was developed by Allan Paivio in 1971 and in 1986 to explain an aspect of human cognition. This theory states that human recall and recognition are enhanced when nonverbal information is accompanied by verbal information. For example, if you show someone an image of a boy marked with the word boy and the word boy is spoken aloud at the same time, the person shown the image will better recognize and recall that image at a future point in time. The converse of this theory is that the recognition and recall of information will be weakened if only one medium of input is utilized.

Proponents of using technological advances to aid education use the dual coding theory to promote their views. They claim that dual coding lends justification to using multimedia applications in the classroom. Such multimedia applications make use of text, image, audio and video at the same time while traditional teaching methods remain focused on verbal presentation of material.

Paivio's theory of dual coding can be explained by the fact that there are levels to understanding. Verbal processing is the level that focuses on language while nonverbal processing is the level that focuses on the representations of nonverbal events. Both levels are important to the process of learning in humans. When these levels are combined, they stimulate an enhancement of human cognition and deduction.

The dual coding theory was designed to demonstrate the positive effects of concreteness in verbal processing. There is a representational difference between abstract and concrete words. The strength of the dual coding theory lies in its ability to explain why it is easier to recall concrete verbal materials compared to abstract materials.

Paivio advocated creating an imagery code. The researcher believed that developing such a code would appear to be the logical strategy for understanding and remembering sentences. However, in the case of an abstract sentence, there may not be an available, useful image that can accompany the verbal information. In this case, a verbal code may be all that a person can deduce.

Opponents of the dual coding theory -- and there are many -- make the case that abstract and concrete sentences are not equally understood. They claim that the difference in the ability to comprehend these two types of sentences might account for the observed pattern that has been labeled dual coding. Even so, the dual coding theory still presents the idea that concreteness and comprehensibility bear a relationship and as such, merit a good explanation.

Paivio's dual coding theory posits a verbal system he terms the logogen system that is distinct in structure and function from the image system he calls the imagen system. The logogen system was said by Paivio to be a system of logogens that corresponds somewhat to words and interconnects through an associative network of related information. These networks develop through associative experiences. This means that as we use and hear language, we draw associations from word to word. Spoken and written language are thought to activate logogens in the most direct and immediate manner.

On the other hand, the imagen system consists of sensory images that suggest characteristics of the original forms from which they arose. This system contains various permutations of partial to whole relationships that come from the sensory experience. The direct activation of imagens is said to be triggered by visual-spatial information.

The logogen and imagen systems can act together or alone as one processes language. There are links that can be used to cross-reference one system so that it activates the other. Concrete words are thought to have a stronger reference to the imagen system than do abstract words while the verbal associative links are not dissimilar in these two word types.

When one is reading or listening to textual/word material, that person's logogen system requires activation. However, in some cases, the imagen system is also activated, in particular, by concrete verbal material. Paivio said, "Precisely which images or descriptions will be activated at any moment depends upon the stimulus context interacting with the relative functional strength of the different referential connections."

Dual-Coding Theory: Selected full-text books and articles

Imagery, Memory, and Cognition: Essays in Honor of Allan Paivio By John Yuille Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1983
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of the Dual-Coding Theory in multiple chapters
Modes of Perceiving and Processing Information By Elliot Saltzman; Herbert L. Pick Jr Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1978
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "A Dual Coding Approach to Perception and Cognition"
Imagery and Verbal Processes By Allan Paivio Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1979
Librarian's tip: "The Dual-Coding Hypothesis and Memory" begins on p. 233
Cognitive Psychology and Information Processing: An Introduction By Janet L. Lachman; Roy Lachman; Earl C. Butterfield Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1979
Librarian's tip: "Dual Coding Theory" begins on p. 422
The Nature of Thought: Essays in Honor of D. O. Hebb By Peter W. Jusczyk; Raymond M. Klein Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1980
Librarian's tip: Discussion of the Dual-Coding Theory begins on pgs. 135 and 160
The Psychology of Word Meanings By Paula J. Schwanenflugel Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
Librarian's tip: "Dual-Coding Theory" begins on p. 238
Memory Development between Two and Twenty By Wolfgang Schneider; Michael Pressley Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: "Verbal and Nonverbal Representations: Imagery and Dual Coding" begins on p. 95
Introduction to Memory Development during Childhood and Adolescence By Michael Pressley; Wolfgang Schneider Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Librarian's tip: "Verbal and Nonverbal Images" begins on p. 40
Bilingualism, Multiculturalism, and Second Language Learning: The McGill Conference in Honour of Wallace E. Lambert By Allan G. Reynolds Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Dual-Coding Theory begins on p. 118
Is Seeing Believing? Features of Effective Multimedia for Learning Science By Iding, Marie K International Journal of Instructional Media, Vol. 27, No. 4, Fall 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Effects of Visual Display on Analogies Using Computer-Based Learning By Shu-Ling, Lai International Journal of Instructional Media, Vol. 25, No. 2, Spring 1998
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Proverb in Mind: The Cognitive Science of Proverbial Wit and Wisdom By Richard P. Honeck Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Librarian's tip: "The Dual Coding Theory " begins on p. 162
The Construction of Mental Representations during Reading By Herre Van Oostendorp; Susan R. Goldman Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Librarian's tip: "Illustrations and Dual-Coding Theory" begins on p. 210
Handbook of Cognitive, Social, and Neuropsychological Aspects of Learning Disabilities By Stephen J. Ceci Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.1, 1986
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Multiple Coding Processes in Learning-Disabled and Skilled Readers"
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