Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 149–210 | Cite as

Dual coding theory and education

  • James M. Clark
  • Allan Paivio


Dual coding theory (DCT) explains human behavior and experience in terms of dynamic associative processes that operate on a rich network of modality-specific verbal and nonverbal (or imagery) representations. We first describe the underlying premises of the theory and then show how the basic DCT mechanisms can be used to model diverse educational phenomena. The research demonstrates that concreteness, imagery, and verbal associative processes play major roles in various educational domains: the representation and comprehension of knowledge, learning and memory of school material, effective instruction, individual differences, achievement motivation and test anxiety, and the learning of motor skills. DCT also has important implications for the science and practice of educational psychology — specifically, for educational research and teacher education. We show not only that DCT provides a unified explanation for diverse topics in education, but also that its mechanistic framework accommodates theories cast in terms of strategies and other high-level psychological processes. Although much additional research needs to be done, the concrete models that DCT offers for the behavior and experience of students, teachers, and educational psychologists further our understanding of educational phenomena and strengthen related pedagogical practices.

Key words

imagery verbal processes unified educational theory 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • James M. Clark
    • 1
  • Allan Paivio
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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