Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 261-312

First online:

What Is the Value of Graphical Displays in Learning?

  • Ioanna VekiriAffiliated withSchool of Education, The University of Michigan

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The article reviews studies that explain the role of graphical displays in learning and synthesizes relevant findings into principles for effective graphical design. Three theoretical perspectives provide the framework that organizes the review: dual coding theory, visual argument, and conjoint retention. The three theories are compatible although they are based on different assumptions. Research suggests that graphics are effective learning tools only when they allow readers to interpret and integrate information with minimum cognitive processing. Learners' characteristics, such as prior subject-matter knowledge, visuospatial ability, and strategies, influence graphic processing and interact with graphical design to mediate its effects. Future research should investigate the interplay between display and learner characteristics and how graphical design can address individual differences in learning from graphics.

graphical displays learning cognitive processes