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The influence of text characteristics on the processing of multimedia material

Multiple Representations


November 2006 – April 2016


Wettbewerbsfonds der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft im Rahmen des "Pakts für Forschung und Innovation", IWM budget resources


The aim of the project was to investigate how specific characteristics of a given text, namely text content, can influence the way multimedia learning material is processed. It was assumed that the presentation of spatial text contents leads to interference between text and picture processing in spatial working memory.

This assumption was based on the fact that spatial text contents are processed in spatial working memory which also controls eye movements associated with processing of multimedia materials. As spatial aspects of the illustration are also processed in the spatial working memory, the presentation of spatial text contents along with illustrations should result in a high load of this type of memory, which in turn is likely to lead to poorer performance. These hypotheses have been confirmed by four studies conducted as part of the PhD thesis of Anne Schüler.

Based on these results, additional research (in cooperation with Prof. Francesca Pazzaglia, Universitá degli Studi di Padova) was focused on whether the observed findings can also be transferred to other materials and which kind of representation (i.e., text vs. picture) is suited better to convey spatial vs. non-spatial contents. The results showed that pictures are especially suited to convey spatial information and that additional verbal descriptions of spatial configurations can even hinder learning.


  • Schüler, A., Pazzaglia, F., & Scheiter, K. (2019). Specifying the boundary conditions of the multimedia effect: The influence of content and its distribution between text and pictures. British Journal of Psychology, 110, 126-150.
  • Schüler, A., Scheiter, K., & Gerjets, P. (2012). Verbal descriptions of spatial information can interfere with picture processing. Memory, 20, 682-699.
  • Schüler, A., Scheiter, K., & Schmidt-Weigand, F. (2011). Boundary conditions and constraints of the modality effect. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 25, 211-220.
  • Schüler, A., Scheiter, K., & Gerjets, P. (2011). Does the modality effect in multimedia learning appear only with text containing spatial information? Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 25, 257-267.
  • Schüler, A., Scheiter, K., & van Genuchten, E. (2011). The role of working memory in multimedia instruction: Is working memory working during learning from text and pictures? Educational Psychology Review, 23, 389-411.