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The Effect of Implementation Intentions on the Use of Cognitive Strategies in Multimedia Learning and on Learning Performance

Multiple Representations


January 2009 - January 2014


German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)


In order to fully benefit from multimedia learning materials, learners have to process both representational formats (i.e., text and picture) on a deeper level, for instance, by using cognitive strategies. Multimedia-specific, cognitive strategies can be derived from the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer, 2009), among other things. Consequently, these strategies pertain to the selection of relevant information in the text and picture, the organization of the selected information in verbal and pictorial mental models, and the integration of both mental models with each other and prior knowledge. However, learners also have to learn when and how to use these cognitive strategies. For this, implementation intentions seem to be a promising approach. Implementation intentions are “if-then” plans that strongly link good situations to act with an action that is effective in achieving a goal. By doing this, implementation intentions can facilitate the translation of an intention into an action.
 Aim of this dissertation project was to investigate how implementation intentions can be used to facilitate the use of cognitive strategies when learning with text and pictures, thus, optimizing the learning with multimedia learning materials. Our studies showed that implementation intentions can improve the use of cognitive strategies and learning performance, especially if they supported a combination of text comprehension, picture comprehension, and integration strategies. Furthermore, we could show that implementation intentions can compensate for low motivation in learners and significantly improve the learning outcomes of less interested learners. Finally, implementation intentions proved to increase learning both under conditions of low and high cognitive load, whereas explicit prompts to use cognitive strategies only succeeded to improve learning outcomes under conditions of low cognitive load.


Stalbovs, K., Scheiter, K. & Gerjets, P. (2015). Implementation intentions during multimedia learning: Using if-then plans to facilitate cognitive processing. Learning and Instruction, 35, 1-15.