Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 5–26 | Cite as

Pictorial Illustrations Still Improve Students' Learning from Text

  • Russell N. Carney
  • Joel R. Levin


Research conducted primarily during the 1970s and 1980s supported the assertion that carefully constructed text illustrations generally enhance learners' performance on a variety of text-dependent cognitive outcomes. Research conducted throughout the 1990s still strongly supports that assertion. The more recent research has extended pictures-in-text conclusions to alternative media and technological formats and has begun to explore more systematically the “whys,” “whens,” and “for whoms” of picture facilitation, in addition to the “whethers” and “how muchs.” Consideration is given here to both more and less conventional types of textbook illustration, with several “tenets for teachers” provided in relation to each type.

pictorial illustrations pictures illustrations pictorial mnemonic strategies text illustrations adjunct pictures 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adler, C. (1993). Directed picture processing: The effects for learners on recall of related text. Diss. Abstr. Int. 54(3-A): 863.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson, R. K., Levin, J. R., Beitzel, B. D., and Glover, T. A. (1999). In search of the unique cognitive benefits of mnemonic matrices. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, April 1999.Google Scholar
  3. Atkinson, R. K., Levin, J. R., Kiewra, K. A., Meyers, T., Kim, S., Atkinson, L. A., Renandya, W. A., and Hwang, Y. (1999). Matrix and mnemonic text-processing adjuncts: Comparing and combining their components. J. Educ. Psychol. 91: 342–357.Google Scholar
  4. Balluerka, N. (1995). The influence of instructions, outlines, and illustrations on the comprehension and recall of scientific texts. Contemp. Educ. Psychol. 20: 369–375.Google Scholar
  5. Benson, P. J. (1995). Problems in picturing text. Diss. Abstr. Int. Sec. A: Humanities Soc. Sci. 55(11-A): 3357.Google Scholar
  6. Bernard, R. M. (1990). Using extended captions to improve learning from instructional illustrations. Br. J. Educ. Technol. 21: 215–225.Google Scholar
  7. Betrancourt, M., and Bisseret, A. (1998). Integrating textual and pictorial information via popup windows: An experimental study. Behav. Inf. Technol. 17: 263–273.Google Scholar
  8. Blystone, R., and Dettling, B. (1990). Visual literacy in science textbooks. In Rowe, M. B. (ed.), What Research Says to the Science Teacher: The Process of Knowing, Vol. 6, National Science Teachers Association, Washington, DC, pp. 19–40.Google Scholar
  9. Bransford, J. D. (1979). Human Cognition: Learning, Understanding, and Remembering, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.Google Scholar
  10. Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a Theory of Instruction, Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Carney, R.N., and Levin, J. R. (1998). Coming to terms with the keyword method in introductory psychology: A “neuromnemonic” example. Teaching Psychol. 25: 132–134.Google Scholar
  12. Carney, R. N., Levin, M. E., and Levin, J. R. (1993). Mnemonic strategies: Instructional techniques worth remembering. Teaching Except. Child. 25(4): 24–30.Google Scholar
  13. Clottes, J. (2001). France's magical ice age art: Chauvet cave. Nat. Geogr. 200(2): 104–121.Google Scholar
  14. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, Rev. edn., Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  15. Constable, H., Cambell, B., and Brown, R. (1988). Sectional drawings from science textbooks: An experimental investigation into pupils' understanding. Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 58: 89–102.Google Scholar
  16. Cutting, J. E., and Massironi, M. (1998). Pictures and their special status in perceptual and cognitive inquiry. In Hochberg, J., Carterette, E., and Friedman, M. (eds.), Perception and Cognition at the Century's End: Handbook of Perception and Cognition, 2nd edn., Academic Press, San Diego, pp. 137–168.Google Scholar
  17. David, P. (1998). News concreteness and visual-verbal association: Do news pictures narrow the recall gap between concrete and abstract news? Hum. Comm. Res. 25: 180–201.Google Scholar
  18. Dean, R. S., and Kulhavy, R.W. (1981). The influence of spatial organization in prose learning. J. Educ. Psychol. 73: 57–64.Google Scholar
  19. Dretzke, B. J. (1993). Effects of pictorial mnemonic strategy usage on prose recall of young, middle-aged, and older adults. Educ. Gerontol. 19: 489–502.Google Scholar
  20. Fang, Z. (1996). Illustrations, text, and the child reader. What are pictures in children's storybooks for? Read. Horizons 37: 130–142.Google Scholar
  21. Glenberg, A. M., and Langston, W. E. (1992). Comprehension of illustrated text: Pictures help to build mental models. J. Mem. Lang. 31: 129–151.Google Scholar
  22. Goodman, K., Maras, L., and Birdseye, D. (1994). Look! Look! Who stole the pictures from the picture books? The basalization of picture books. New Advocate 7(1): 1–24.Google Scholar
  23. Guri, S. (1985). The function of diagrams in learning from social science self-study texts. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, March-April 1985.Google Scholar
  24. Gyselinck, V., and Tardieu, H. (1994). Illustrations, mental models, and comprehension of instructional text. In Schnotz, W., and Kulhavy, R.W. (eds.), Comprehension and Graphics, North-Holland, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  25. Gyselinck, V., and Tardieu, H. (1999). The role of illustrations in text comprehension: What, when, for whom, and why? In van Oostendorp, H., and Goldman, S. R. (eds.), The Construction of Mental Operations During Reading, Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ.Google Scholar
  26. Higbee, K. L. (1988). Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It, 2nd edn., Prentice Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  27. Higgins, L. C. (1979). Effects of strategy-oriented training on children's inference from pictures. Educ. Comm. Technol. J. 27: 265–280.Google Scholar
  28. Ho, E. (1999). The Heart of the Matter: The Use of Mnemonics and Analogies in Learning Science Text, Unpublished Masters Thesis, University ofWisconsin, Madison.Google Scholar
  29. Iding, M. K. (1997). Can questions facilitate learning from illustrated science texts? Read. Psychol. 18: 1–29.Google Scholar
  30. Jenkins, J. J. (1979). Four points to remember: A tetrahedral model of memory explanations. In Cermak, L. S., and Craik, F. I. M. (eds.), Levels of Processing in Human Memory, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 429–446.Google Scholar
  31. Lesgold, A. M., Levin, J. R., Shimron, J., and Guttman, J. (1975). Pictures and young children's learning from oral prose. J. Educ. Psychol. 67: 636–642.Google Scholar
  32. Levie, W. H. (1987). Research on pictures: A guide to the literature. In Willows, D. M., and Houghton, H. A. (eds.), The Psychology of Illustration: I. Basic Research, Springer, New York, pp. 1–50.Google Scholar
  33. Levie, W. H., and Lentz, R. (1982). Effects of text illustrations: A review of research. Educ. Comm. Technol. J. 30: 195–232.Google Scholar
  34. Levin, J. R. (1980). Try a new method of vocabulary instruction. Weekly Reader (Teacher's Edition 4) 61(25): 1–3.Google Scholar
  35. Levin, J. R. (1981). On functions of pictures in prose. In Pirozzolo, F. J., and Wittrock, M. C. (eds.), Neuropsychological and Cognitive Processes in Reading, Academic Press, New York, pp. 203–228.Google Scholar
  36. Levin, J. R. (1982). Pictures as prose-learning devices. In Flammer, A., and Kintsch, W. (eds.), Discourse Processing, North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 412–444.Google Scholar
  37. Levin, J. R. (1983). Pictorial strategies for school learning: Practical illustrations. In Pressley, M., and Levin, J. R. (eds.), Cognitive Strategy Research: Educational Applications, Springer, New York, pp. 213–237.Google Scholar
  38. Levin, J. R. (1986). Four cognitive principles of learning-strategy instruction. Educ. Psychol. 21: 3–17.Google Scholar
  39. Levin, J. R. (1995). Stalking the wild mnemos: Research that's easy to remember. In Brannigan, G. G. (ed.), The Enlightened Educator: Research Adventures in the Schools, McGraw-Hill, New York, pp. 85–108.Google Scholar
  40. Levin, J. R. (1998). How to remember (almost) everything. In Suid, M. (ed.), The Kids' How to Do (Almost) Everything Guide, Monday Morning Books, Palo Alto, CA, pp. 126–128.Google Scholar
  41. Levin, J. R., Anglin, G. J., and Carney, R. N. (1987). On empirically validating functions of pictures in prose. In Willows, D. M., and Houghton, H. A. (eds.), The Psychology of Illustration: I. Basic Research, Springer, New York, pp. 51–85.Google Scholar
  42. Levin, J. R., and Berry, J. K. (1980). Children's learning of all the news that's fit to picture. Educ. Comm. Technol. J. 28: 177–185.Google Scholar
  43. Levin, J. R., Divine-Hawkins, P., Kerst, S. M., and Guttmann, J. (1974). Individual differences in learning from pictures and words: The development and application of an instrument. J. Educ. Psychol. 66: 296–303.Google Scholar
  44. Levin, J. R., and Mayer, R. E. (1993). Understanding illustrations in text. In Britton, B. K., Woodward, A., and Brinkley, M. (eds.), Learning from Textbooks, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 95–113.Google Scholar
  45. Levin, J. R., Shriberg, L. K., and Berry, J. K. (1983). A concrete strategy for remembering abstract prose. Am. Educ. Res. J. 20: 277–290.Google Scholar
  46. Levin, M. E., and Levin, J. R. (1990). Scientific mnemonomies: Methods for maximizing more than memory. Am. Educ. Res. J. 27: 301–321.Google Scholar
  47. Levin, M. E., Rosenheck, M. B., and Levin, J. R. (1988). Mnemonic text-processing strategies: A teaching science for science teaching. Read. Psychol. 9: 343–363.Google Scholar
  48. Mandl, H., and Levin, J. R. (eds.) (1989). Knowledge Acquisition from Text and Pictures, Elsevier, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  49. Marcus, N., Cooper, M., and Sweller, J. (1996). Understanding instructions. J. Educ. Psychol. 88: 49–63.Google Scholar
  50. Markman, E. M. (1979). Realizing that you don't understand: Elementary school children's awareness of inconsistencies. Child Dev. 50: 643–655.Google Scholar
  51. Mayer, R. E. (1989). Systematic thinking fostered by illustrations in scientific text. J. Educ. Psychol. 81: 240–246.Google Scholar
  52. Mayer, R. E. (1992). Illustrations that instruct. In Glaser, R. (ed.), Advances in Instructional Psychology, Vol. 4, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 253–284.Google Scholar
  53. Mayer, R. E., and Anderson, R. (1992). The instructive animation: Helping students build connections between words and pictures in multimedia learning. J. Educ. Psychol. 84: 444–452.Google Scholar
  54. Mayer, R. E., and Gallini, J. K. (1990). When is an illustration worth ten thousand words? J. Educ. Psychol. 82: 715–726.Google Scholar
  55. Mayer, R. E., and Moreno, R. (1998). A split-attention effect in multimedia learning: Evidence for dual processing systems in working memory. J. Educ. Psychol. 90: 312–320.Google Scholar
  56. McCormick, C. B., and Levin, J. R. (1987). Mnemonic prose-learning strategies. In McDaniel, M. A., and Pressley, M. (eds.), Imagery and Related Mnemonic Processes: Theories, Individual Differences, and Applications, Springer, New York, pp. 392–406.Google Scholar
  57. Mousavi, S. Y., Low, R., and Sweller, J. (1995). Reducing cognitive load by mixing auditory and visual presentation modes. J. Educ. Psychol. 87: 319–334.Google Scholar
  58. Ollerenshaw, A., Aidman, E., and Kidd, G. (1997). Is an illustration always worth ten thousandwords? Effects of prior knowledge, learning style, and multimedia illustrations on text comprehension. Int. J. Instruct. Media 24: 227–238.Google Scholar
  59. Paivio, A. (1971). Imagery and Verbal Processes, Holt, Rinehart, & Co., New York.Google Scholar
  60. Paivio, A. (1986). Mental Representations: A Dual-Coding Approach, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  61. Palincsar, A. S., and Brown, A. L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension fostering and monitoring activities. Cogn. Instruct. 1: 117–175.Google Scholar
  62. Peeck, J. (1993). Increasing picture effects in learning from illustrated text. Learn. Instruct. 3: 227–238.Google Scholar
  63. Raymond, A. (1995). Author, editor-in-chief, teacher: Patricia Lee Gauch. Teaching Pre K-8 26(1): 62–64.Google Scholar
  64. Reid, D. J., and Beveridge, M. (1990). Reading illustrated science texts: A micro-computer investigation of children's strategies. Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 60: 76–87.Google Scholar
  65. Reinking, D. R., Hayes, D. A., and McEneaney, J. E. (1988). Good and poor readers' use of explicitly cued graphic aids. J. Read. Behav. 20: 229–243.Google Scholar
  66. Renandya, W. A., Hwang, Y., Rich, J.D., Ruffalo, S. L., Levin, M. E., and Levin, J. R. (1993). Explorations in mnemonic mythology. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, April 1993.Google Scholar
  67. Riding, R. J., and Douglas, G. (1993). The effect of cognitive style and mode of presentation on learning performance. Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 63: 297–307.Google Scholar
  68. Rosenheck, M. B., Levin, M. E., and Levin, J. R. (1989). Learning botany concepts mnemonically: Seeing the forest and the trees. J. Educ. Psychol. 81: 196–203.Google Scholar
  69. Rubman, C. N., and Waters, H. S. (2000). A, B seeing: The role of reconstructive processes in children's comprehension monitoring. J. Educ. Psychol. 92: 503–514.Google Scholar
  70. Rummel, N., Levin, J. R., and Beitzel, B. D. (2001). Can mnemonic strategies enhance students, processing and recall of integrated text? Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  71. Samuels, S. J. (1970). Effects of pictures on learning to read, comprehension and attitudes. Rev. Educ. Res. 40: 397–407.Google Scholar
  72. Schallert, D. L. (1980). The role of illustrations in reading comprehension. In Spiro, R. J., Bruce, B. C., and Brewer, W. F. (eds.), Theoretical Issues in Reading Comprehension: Perspectives from Cognitive Psychology, Linguistics, Artificial Intelligence, and Education, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 503–524.Google Scholar
  73. Sipe, L. R. (1998). How picture books work: A semiotically framed theory of text-picture relationships. Children's Lit. Educ. 29: 97–108.Google Scholar
  74. Smith, B. D., and Elifson, J. M. (1986). Do pictures make a difference in college textbooks? Read. Horizons 26: 270–277.Google Scholar
  75. Stewig, J. W. (1992). Reading pictures, reading text: Some similarities. New Advocate 5(1): 11–22.Google Scholar
  76. Waddill, P. J., and McDaniel, M. A. (1992). Pictorial enhancement of text memory: Limitations imposed by picture type and comprehension skill. Mem. Cogn. 20: 472–482.Google Scholar
  77. Waddill, P. J., McDaniel, M. A., and Einstein, G. O. (1988). Illustrations as adjuncts to prose: A test-appropriate processing approach. J. Educ. Psychol. 80: 457–464.Google Scholar
  78. Wang, A. Y., and Newlin, M. H. (2000). Characteristics of students who enroll and succeed in psychology web-based classes. J. Educ. Psychol. 92: 137–143.Google Scholar
  79. Weidenmann, B. (1989). When good pictures fail: An information-processing approach to the effect of illustrations. In Mandl, H., and Levin, J. R. (eds.), Knowledge Acquisition from Text and Pictures, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 157–171.Google Scholar
  80. Weidenmann, B., Paechter, M., and Hartmannsgruber, K. (1999). Structuring and sequencing of comples text-picture combinations. Europ. J. Psychol. Educ. 14: 185–202.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell N. Carney
    • 1
  • Joel R. Levin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySouthwest Missouri State UniversitySpringfield
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of ArizonaArizona

Personalised recommendations