Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 153–180 | Cite as

Picture or Text First? Explaining Sequence Effects when Learning with Pictures and Text

  • Alexander Eitel
  • Katharina Scheiter
Review Article


The present article reviews 42 studies investigating the role of sequencing of text and pictures for learning outcomes. Whereas several of the reviewed studies revealed better learning outcomes from presenting the picture before the text rather than after it, other studies demonstrated the opposite effect. Against the backdrop of theories on memory representations, these results are explained by a recency effect: that is, recall of information should be superior for the medium (text or picture) presented second, and thus, in closer temporal proximity to the assessment. As a consequence, the type of knowledge assessed (text-based vs. picture-based) and its congruence with the more recent medium should determine whether better learning results are found when presenting the picture or text first. Against the backdrop of theories on mental model construction, results were explained by a facilitation effect for the medium (text or picture) presented second. As a consequence, the relative complexity of information conveyed by the picture and by the text should determine which medium is better to be processed first, with less complex information being processed first leading to better comprehension. To conclude, the review suggests that it is not so much the sequence of text and pictures per se that affects learning outcomes than these boundary conditions (i.e., type of assessed knowledge, relative complexity of text, and picture). Accordingly, the present review seeks to stimulate further research along the boundary conditions to better understand the processes involved when learning with text and pictures.


Learning with text and pictures Sequential presentation Multimedia Multiple external representations Graphic organizers 


This research was funded by the Pact for Research and Innovation of the Competition Fund of the Leibniz Gemeinschaft.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Knowledge Media Research CenterTuebingenGermany

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