This experiment attempted to determine how modality (i.e., visual, auditory, textual, visual-textual, visual-auditory, and auditory-textual) influenced learners recall ability on a paired-associate learning task. The experimental procedure required subjects to observe paired-concepts either by visually observing pictorial representations of the concepts, by observing the words themselves, by listening to the concept pairs, or through some combination of modalities. Subjects were then tested as to their recall of the concept pairs. Additionally, subjects were asked to describe the recall strategy they used to remember the pairs. Results indicated that significant differences in recall performance related to both presentation modality and recall strategy.
Determining the ideal way to instruct students has been a research question among educators since formal education began. It has been suggested that many instructional techniques are inadequate because they require too heavy of a cognitive load-the amount of cognitive activity required for a student to learn a task (Sweller, 1994). Current research in educational psychology has attempted to realize the most efficient ways to reduce cognitive load among students and maximize their working memory. More specifically, the combining of various presentation modes (e.g., visual and auditory) has been investigated (Mousani, Low & Sweller, 1995) and there is a growing trend towards the pedagogical use of multimedia presentations in the classroom (Velayo & Smith, 1997). Paired-associate learning paradigms are useful experimental designs when investigating the learning and memory functioning (Houston, 1991).
Paired-associate learning strategies have been shown to be effective in improving subjects' recall ability (Bulgren, Hock, Schumaker, & Deshler, 1995). In addition, research has examined qualities that lead to improved recall of paired-associates. Similarity of pairs has been evidenced to lead to improved cued-recall performance (Guttentag, 1995) and direct oppositionality of pairs has also been linked with improved recall (Ulasevich & Rychlak, 1994).
Previous studies have noted the impact of presentation modality on recall. Audiovisual presentations made to 2nd and 5th graders led to improved recall of paired-associates (Godley, Estes, & Fournet, 1984). Audiovisual presentations also led to greater recall of a political broadcast shown to 1825 year old undergraduates (Gunter, Furnham, & Leese, 1986). Thompson and Paivio (1994) found recall of picture-sound stimuli was consistently greater than that of picture-only or sound-only stimuli. The results of these studies are consistent with Paivio's dual coding theory (Clark & Paivio, 1991). This theory states that the building of visual and verbal representations together result in the construction of a third referential connection in working memory, which will lead to improved learning.
Other studies have found that the combined visual-textual modality has improved recall. Text presented with visual stimuli has been shown to lead to better recall than text presented with sentences (Zoller, Workman, & Kroll, 1989). One study found the visual-textual modality to be related to better recall than the textual-only modality even when the visual-textual modality presented summarized information and the textual-only modality provided either full text or full text with summaries (Mayer, Bove, Bryman, Mars, & Tapangco, 1996).
A study comparing two different bimodal presentations also found differences in subjects' recall. In this study subjects shown an audiovisual presentation outperformed subjects shown a visual-textual presentation on retention tests (Mayer & Moreno, 1998).
The visual modality alone has also been shown to improve recall. In one study, paired-associates presented visually were remembered more successfully than those presented in the auditory modality (Dwivedi & Pandey, 1983). …