The Use of Visual Cues in Text

  • Jeremy J. Foster
Part of the Nato Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 13)


“Visual cues” are variations in the appearance of a graphic display which are intended to assist the reader in using the display more efficiently. Visual cues are frequently employed where the reader has to detect or discriminate target items, such as in maps or bibliographies, but are less frequently used in material read for comprehension.

The experimental literature on cuing, particularly in continuous prose, is surveyed. Two experiments are reported. One involved obtaining judgements of the key sentences in a 3,400-word text, and demonstrated the inconsistency of the judges; the second examined the effects of typographic cuing using a delayed free-recall test. The results indicated that cuing key material led readers to recall more of that key material.

Waller (personal communication) noted: “It seems promising…to explore ways of making the content and structure of textbooks accessible to the selective reader. It is proposed… that one way of achieving this effect could be through the use of typographically signalled structural cues….” The present paper is concerned with incorporating structural cues within the text itself by using typography to distinguish levels of content. The hypothesis is that this can facilitate effective reading of prose. It rests on the assumption that reading involves not only the comprehension of words but also an awareness of the underlying structure of prose, which can be signalled by typographic cues.


Supplementary Benefit Language Comprehension Core Content Topic Sentence Effective Reading 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, R.C. How to construct achievement test to assess comprehension. Review of Educational Research, 1972, 42, 145–170.Google Scholar
  2. Bower, G.H. Experiments on story understanding and recall. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1976, 28, 511–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carroll, J.B. Defining language comprehension: Some speculations. In J.B. Carroll & R.O. Freedle (Eds.), Language comprehension and the acquisition of knowledge. Washington, DC:-Winston, 1972.Google Scholar
  4. Carver, R.P. Comparing the reading-storage test to the paraphrase test as measures of the primary effect in prose reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1973, 67, 274–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cashen, V.M., & Leicht, K.L. Role of the isolation effect in a formal educational setting. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1970, 61, 484–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christiansen, C.M., & Stordahl, K.E. The effect of organizational aids on comprehension and retention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1935, 46, 63–74.Google Scholar
  7. Coles, P., & Foster, J.J. Typographic cuing as an aid to learning from typewritten text. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology, 1973, 12, 102–108.Google Scholar
  8. Crouse, J.H., & Idstein, P. Effects of encoding cues on prose learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1972, 63, 309–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dearborn, W.F., Johnson, P.W., & Carmichael, L. Improving the readability of type-written manuscripts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1931, 37, 670–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dennis, I. The design and experimental testing of a hospital drug labelling system. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology, 1973, 12, 88–94.Google Scholar
  11. Felker, D.B., & Dapra, R.A. Effects of question type and question placement on problem-solving ability from prose material. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1973, 67, 380–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Foster, J.J., & Coles, P. An experimental study of typographic cuing in printed text. Ergonomics, 1977, 20, 37–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fowler, R.L., & Barker, A.S. Effectiveness of highlighting for retention of text material. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1974, 39, 338–3644.Google Scholar
  14. Freedle, R.O., & Carroll, J.B. Language comprehension and the acquisition of knowledge: Some reflections. In J.B. Carroll and R.O. Freedle (Eds.), Language comprehension and the acquisition of knowledge. Washington, DC: Winston, 1972.Google Scholar
  15. Hartley, J., & Burnhill, P. Explorations in space: A critique of the typography of BPS publications. Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 1976, 29, 97–107.Google Scholar
  16. Hershberger, W. Self-evaluational responding and typographical cuing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1964, 33, 288–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hershberger, W.A., & Terry, D.F. Typographical cuing in conventional and programmed texts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1963, 49, 33–60.Google Scholar
  18. Klare, G., Mabry, J.E., & Gustafson, L.M. Relationship of patterning (underlining) to immediate retention and to acceptability of technical material. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1933, 39, 40–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kulhavy, R.W. Effects of embedding orienting stimuli in a prose passage. Psychonomic Science, 1972, 28, 213–214.Google Scholar
  20. Mandler, J.M., & Johnson, N.S. Remembrance of things parsed: Story structure and recall. Cognitive Psychology, 1977, 9, 111–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marks, M.B. Improve reading through better format. Journal of Educational Research, 1966, 60, l47–131.Google Scholar
  22. Meyer, B.J.F., & McConkie, G.W. What is recalled after hearing a passage? Journal of Educational Psychology, 1973, 63, 109–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Phillips, R.J. Making maps easy to read: A summary of research. (This volume.)Google Scholar
  24. Poulton, E.C. Searching for newspaper headlines printed in capitals or lowercase letters. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1967, 51, 417–425.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rickards, J.P., & August G.J. Generative underlining strategies in prose recall. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1975, 67, 860–865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rothkopf, E.Z. Structural text features and the control of processes in learning from written materials. In J.B. Carroll & R.O. Freedle (Eds.), Language comprehension and the acquisition of knowledge. Washington, DC: Winston, 1972.Google Scholar
  27. Spencer, H., Reynolds, L., & Coe, B. Typographic coding in lists and bibliographies. Applied Ergonomics, 1974, 5, 136–141.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Spencer, H., Reynolds, L., & Coe, B. Spatial and typographic coding within bibliographical entries. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology, 1975, 12, 95–101.Google Scholar
  29. Thorndyke, P.W. Cognitive structures in comprehension and memory of narrative discourse. Cognitive Psychology, 1977, 9, 77–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wright, P., & Fox, K. Presenting information in tables. Applied Ergonomics, 1970, 1, 234–242PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy J. Foster

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations