The Spatial Contiguity Effect in Multimedia Learning:The Role of Cueing
Text and illustrations integrated in spatial distribution could be helpful for learners’ performance during multimedia learning. In addition, recent studies showed that cues, e.g. highlighting with color, arrows, bold typeface, could guide learner’s attention and improve their learning outcomes. The researchers speculate that the picture and text close to each other can shorten the visual search time and reduce the cognitive load, thereby enhancing the learning results. Previous studies also showed that adding cues to the learning materials could guide the learners’ attention, promoted the organization and integration of the new learning knowledge. But what are the specific processes of the contiguity effect? Whether the changes of the picture-text’s location and adding cues would affect the allocation of attention? In this study, we expected that the contiguity effects and cueing would affect the learners' attention allocation, and then influence the memory tests. Consequently, the integrated text and pictures with cues would have more fixation counts and longer dwell time on the task related area, and higher scores in the retention test and transfer test.
In this study, fifty one college students were recruited from Central China Normal University as the participants with prior knowledge questionnaire. And a computer-generated animation depicting the process of lightning formation was used as the experiment material. Highlighting red color on text and pictures were manipulated as cues. First of all, a demographic questionnaire including a prior knowledge questionnaire would be sent to all of the prospective participants who want to participate in the experiment. The student who could be the participants had been measured by the prior knowledge questionnaire, to ensure they knew little about the lightning knowledge. After that they were randomized into four groups. The four groups were as follows: the integrated text picture with cues, the integrated text picture without cues; the split text picture with cues; the split text picture without cues. All participants would watch the animation and learn those materials during the experiment. Eyelink 1000 was used to record their eye data. After the eye tracking data collection, they would take retention test and transfer test to test what they had learned.
The results showed that the students who learned the text pictures integrated had higher scores than the text picture split group on the retention test and transfer test. And the integrated group had more run counts and longer first fixation time on the task related area (red color highlighting cues) than the split group. Besides that, as to the text, the integrated group also had longer dwell time and more fixation counts, manifested a text-oriented reading mode. Although the main effect of cues were not significant on the retention, transfer tests and eye-movement data, the interaction effect between cues and picture-text location was significant. The integrated group had more fixation counts and more run counts on the task related area when the text and pictures were cued with red color. In addition, the four groups have no difference over their gender, age, the prior knowledge.
In sum, these results indicated that the contiguity effects can not only improve learners’ memorizing and understanding, but also help to allocate the attention or attention shifting during multimedia learning with the moment to moment recording. The text close to the picture can be beneficial to integrate and memorizing the information between pictures and text. What’s more, cues can make visual search process much shorter and easier when the text and illustrations are contiguous in space.