Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 51–72 | Cite as

An Embedded and Embodied Cognition Review of Instructional Manipulatives

  • Wim T. J. L. PouwEmail author
  • Tamara van Gog
  • Fred Paas
Review Article


Recent literature on learning with instructional manipulatives seems to call for a moderate view on the effects of perceptual and interactive richness of instructional manipulatives on learning. This “moderate view” holds that manipulatives’ perceptual and interactive richness may compromise learning in two ways: (1) by imposing a very high cognitive load on the learner, and (2) by hindering drawing of symbolic inferences that are supposed to play a key role in transfer (i.e., application of knowledge to new situations in the absence of instructional manipulatives). This paper presents a contrasting view. Drawing on recent insights from Embedded Embodied perspectives on cognition, it is argued that (1) perceptual and interactive richness may provide opportunities for alleviating cognitive load (Embedded Cognition), and (2) transfer of learning is not reliant on decontextualized knowledge but may draw on previous sensorimotor experiences of the kind afforded by perceptual and interactive richness of manipulatives (Embodied Cognition). By negotiating the Embedded Embodied Cognition view with the moderate view, implications for research are derived.


Instructional manipulatives Embedded cognition Embodied cognition 



This research was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; project number 411-10-908).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wim T. J. L. Pouw
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tamara van Gog
    • 1
  • Fred Paas
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social SciencesErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Interdisciplinary Educational Research InstituteUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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