Video Imagery and Children's Acquisition of Televised Geographic Information: Affecting More Than Visual Content

Article excerpt

This study examined whether televised imagery can improve children's acquisition of visual-spatial geographic information. It also investigated whether salient imagery hinders or facilitates processing of auditory information that is unrelated to the image. Fifty second graders and 40 fourth and fifth graders watched a videotaped program on US geography. For half the states shown, imagery was included to enhance elaboration and retrieval of state shapes. As expected, imagery aided in recall of state shapes but not locations; older children learned more from imagery than younger children. Recall of auditory information, when presented in conjunction with imagery, was enhanced during immediate recall, but was depressed when measured two weeks later. Support for the visual superiority and conjoint retention hypotheses are examined. Implications for instructional program production are discussed.

This study was conducted to determine whether the use of imagery aided children's learning of televised geographic information. As learning and memory research have shown, a learner who uses imagery to incorporate the material to be learned has better recall than one who does not use it (c.f. Paivio, 1971; Pressley & Levin, 1980). With television, one can go further and impose such imagery on important content rather than relying on viewers to generate their own imagery spontaneously. The technique of imposed imagery should be helpful particularly for young children who may lack the cognitive capacity to apply imagery adequately (Bender & Levin, 1976; Pressley, 1982, Rohwer, Kee, & Guy, 1975).

The second goal of this study was to determine whether imposed imagery enhances or interferes with the acquisition of auditory information. Visual imagery may provide referential links to information presented in other modalities, thus improving recall of non-visual information (Abel & Kulhavy, 1986, 1989; Kulhavy, Lee, & Caterino, 1985; Webb, Saltz, McCarthy, & Kealy, 1994). A contrasting hypothesis proposes that by focusing the learner's attention and processing capacities upon visual information, imposed imagery may detract from processing information simultaneously presented in non-visual modalities. In particular, cross-modality research provides evidence that visual information can sometimes interfere with recall of auditory information (Greenfield & Beagles-Roos, 1988; Pezdek & Stevens, 1984).

Imagery as an Imposed Organizer

Imagery provides an economical framework for simultaneously representing all aspects of perceptual/spatial information (e.g., an intact image of a map) and for integrating the relations between the visual and verbal information (Kulhavy, et al., 1985; Paivio, 1971; 1986). Fifth graders who studied a map with icons (e.g. a cross representing the location of a church) and with labels (e.g. the word church alongside the icon) were able to recall more information when cued with both icons and labels than with just the icons alone (Webb et al., 1994). In addition, children's recall of information found only in the narrative improved. In this case, verbal as well as spatial content were encoded with images.

Does Imagery Hinder Auditory Recall?

Visual superiority hypothesis. While children's recall of visual information may benefit from imposed visual elaborations, there is a second issue that the present study addresses as well. The evidence from two bodies of research leads to different predictions on the recall of verbal information in relation to visual information. According to the visual superiority hypothesis, when information is presented in multiple modalities and the individual perceives the visual input as adequate for responding, attention and processing are directed toward vision (Klein & Posner, 1974; Pick, Warren, & Hay, 1969; Rock & Victor, 1964).

The visual superiority effect is best exemplified when the visual and auditory modalities are unrelated. …