Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 389-411

First online:

The Role of Working Memory in Multimedia Instruction: Is Working Memory Working During Learning from Text and Pictures?

  • Anne SchülerAffiliated withKnowledge Media Research Center Email author 
  • , Katharina ScheiterAffiliated withKnowledge Media Research Center
  • , Erlijn van GenuchtenAffiliated withKnowledge Media Research Center

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A lot of research has focused on the beneficial effects of using multimedia, that is, text and pictures, for learning. Theories of multimedia learning are based on Baddeley’s working memory model (Baddeley 1999). Despite this theoretical foundation, there is only little research that aims at empirically testing whether and more importantly how working memory contributes to learning from text and pictures; however, a more thorough understanding of how working memory limitations affect learning may help instructional designers to optimize multimedia instruction. Therefore, the goal of this review is to stimulate such empirical research by (1) providing an overview of the methodologies that can be applied to gain insights in working memory involvement during multimedia learning, (2) reviewing studies that have used these methodologies in multimedia research already, and (3) discussing methodological and theoretical challenges of such an approach as well as the usefulness of working memory to explain learning with multimedia.


Multimedia learning Working memory Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning Cognitive Load Theory Dual-task methodology Working memory capacity