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Mental imagery processes when learning with text and pictures

Working groupMultiple Representations Lab
FundingIWM budget
Project description

In this project we investigated the role of mental imagery processes when learning with text and pictures. The project addressed the question whether the beneficial effect of picture presentation might be explained by the fact that pictures support or substitute imagery processes. The outcomes of this project are especially important for all fields of application where text and pictures are used as learning materials (e.g., school or university).

The main assumption was that learners provided with a picture have fewer difficulties to imagine the contents described in the text. This could explain the beneficial effect of picture presentation. We conducted three experiments to prove this assumption with the help of the dual task paradigm.

In all three experiments it was varied whether a picture was presented before the text or not. Furthermore, it was varied whether learners had to conduct a dual task while reading the text or not (i.e., whether they had to tap a spatial pattern on a numeric keyboard). Results indicated that pictures can support mental imagery: Learners without pictures were disturbed by the dual task, learners with picture were not disturbed by the dual task. These findings can be explained by the fact that learners without pictures constructed a mental picture in front of their inner eyes, which inferred with performing the spatial dual tasks.


Schüler, A. & Mayer, M. G. (in press). Illustrations before text reduce visuo-spatial working memory load during text processing. Discourse Processes. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2020.1750931


Dr. Anne Schüler Dr. Anne Schüler
Tel.: +49 7071 979-341