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The modality effect tested in children in a user-paced multimedia environment


Marijt Witteman, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, P. O. Box 310, 6500AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Email:


The modality learning effect proposes that learning is enhanced when information is presented in both the visual and the auditory domains (e.g. pictures and spoken information) compared with presenting information solely in the visual channel (e.g. pictures and written text). Most of the evidence for this effect comes from adults in a laboratory setting. Therefore, we tested the modality effect with 80 children in the highest grade of elementary school in a naturalistic setting. In a between-subjects design, the children either saw representational pictures with speech or representational pictures with text. Retention and transfer knowledge was tested at three moments: immediately after the intervention, one day after and after one week. The present study did not find any evidence for a modality effect in children when the lesson was learner-paced. Instead, we found a reversed modality effect directly after the intervention for retention. A reversed modality effect was also found for the transfer questions one day later. This effect was robust, even when controlling for individual differences.