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Spatial Contiguity and Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning

Multimodal Interaction


November 2005 - open-ended


Virtual PhD Program/ DFG, budget resources KMRC


This research project is based on assumptions about cognitive load mediating instructional design effects in multimedia learning. The spatial contiguity of text and corresponding graphic (split-attention effect) as well as individual learner characteristics like prior knowledge (expertise reversal effect) have shown to influence multimedia learning. The Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, Van Merrienboer & Paas, 1998) and the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer, 2003; 2005) offer different explanations on how cognitive load mediates both effects. The project investigates the cognitive load mechanism underlying the split-attention and expertise reversal effect by means of secondary task performance, subjective ratings scales and parameters of viewing behavior.


  • Cierniak, G., Scheiter, K., & Gerjets, P. (2009). Explaining the split-attention effect: Is the reduction of extraneous cognitive load accompanied by an increase in germane cognitive load? Computers in Human Behavior, 25 (2), 315-324.
  • Cierniak, G., Scheiter, K., & Gerjets, P. (2009). Expertise reversal in multimedia learning: Subjective load ratings and viewing behavior as cognitive process indicators. In N. A. Taatgen, & H. van Rijn (Eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1906-1911). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.