Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Do Learner Characteristics Moderate the Seductive-Details-Effect? A Cognitive-Load-Study Using Eye-Tracking

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Do Learner Characteristics Moderate the Seductive-Details-Effect? A Cognitive-Load-Study Using Eye-Tracking

Article excerpt


The design of computer-based multimedia learning instructions has many options concerning the integration of additional, non-redundant and interesting but irrelevant learning material in form of pictures, text, animated sequences, videos or audio commentaries. These options are more than playing with colors and/or shapes of the relevant learning material as recommended by emotional design principles that can evoke learning-conducive affective processing in multimedia learning (Park, Knorzer, Plass, & Brunken, 2015; Park, Plass, & Brunken, 2014; Plass, Heidig, Hayward, Homer, & Um, 2014). The additional, non-redundant and interesting but irrelevant information is also used to make the learning material more interesting and attractive to learners (Park, Flowerday, & Brunken, 2015). However, in fact such additional information can also decrease the learning performance.

Until now, research on this negative effect of seductive details has focused on seductive text passages or seductive illustrations in text comprehension studies. Several studies have shown a detrimental effect of seductive details (Garner, Gillingham, & White, 1989; Harp & Mayer, 1998; Lehman, Schraw, McCrudden, & Hartley, 2007; McCrudden & Corkill, 2010), whereas others have shown non-significant results (Garner & Gillingham, 1991; Hidi & Baird, 1988). All of these studies showing a detrimental effect were using scientific texts that explain for example detailed differences between insects or the lightning process step by step. In contrast, the studies that could not show the detrimental effect of seductive details were using non-scientific text. This already is a hint to the idea that seductive details can only interfere with learning within a high-loading learning process that requires managing the available cognitive resources.

In a study by Park, Moreno, Seufert and Brunken (2011), it was shown that controversial results in seductive-details research can be explained by an effect on cognitive load. The findings showed that students' learning performance was significantly higher when seductive details were presented under the low load condition (narration) as compared to all other conditions. Concerning particular learner characteristics a similar effect should appear: If the degree of cognitive load is responsible for the strength of the seductive-details effect and the individual degree of cognitive load is affected by learner characteristics, there should be learner characteristics that moderate the seductive-details effect. To this end, the goal of the present study was to test this hypothesis for two learner characteristics that are supposed to affect the individual cognitive load while learning with multimedia learning instructions: prior knowledge and spatial ability.

Theoretical framework and predictions

According to the Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) (Plass, Moreno, & Brunken, 2010; Sweller, Ayres, & Kalyuga, 2011) the total cognitive capacity is limited and the amount of total cognitive load is determined by three components. First, intrinsic cognitive load depends on the element interactivity. The larger the number of elements that must be processed in working memory and the more complex their relation to each other is, the higher the intrinsic load. Second, extraneous cognitive load is directly caused by the format and concept of the information presentation. A proper instructional design fosters information processing and saves cognitive resources by minimizing extraneous cognitive load. Third, germane cognitive load is the load dedicated to relevant information processing. The higher the engagement in learning and schema acquisition is, the higher the germane load. Seductive details consist of additional interesting but irrelevant information, are part of the instructional design and can therefore be allocated to the extraneous load factor. …

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