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The explanation of the multimedia effect

Multiple Representations

Project Duration

July 2009 - January 2014


Pact for Research and Innovation of the Competition Fonds of the Leibniz Association


This Ph.D. project concerned the question of how the multimedia effect can be explained. This effect states that pictures are beneficial to learning and is explained by the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML). Based on Paivio’s dual code theory, CTML proposes that pictures are beneficial to learning because they allow a pictorial code in long-term memory. However, Schmidt-Weigand and Scheiter (2011) came up with an alternative view. This view is based on the visual argument theory, which posits that pictures facilitate cognitive processes during learning. In the first experiment, it was tested whether the size of the multimedia effect differs between tasks with different learning goals (conceptual, causal, and procedural tasks).
The relative importance of Baddeley’s visuospatial sketchpad was also investigated. This working memory component is responsible for processing pictorial information (e.g., pictures). In the third experiment, the size of the multimedia effect and working memory involvement in procedural tasks was investigated.
 Furthermore, it was investigated in collaboration with Charlotte van Hooijdonk (VU University Amsterdam) why pictures are helpful when studying procedural tasks and what the role of working memory is on this beneficial effect.


Van Genuchten, E., van Hooijdonk, C., Schüler, A., & Scheiter, K. (2014). The role of working memory when "learning how" with multimedia learning material. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28, 327-335.

van Genuchten, E., Scheiter, K., & Schüler, A. (2012). Examining learning from text and pictures for different task types: Does the multimedia effect differ for conceptual, causal, and procedural tasks? Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 2209-2218.

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.