Message Design: Reading Reflection W1

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Reflection Week 1
By: Jennifer Maddrell
Submitted: May 15, 2008       
For: Dr. Gary Morrison, IDT 895

Reflection 1 - Winn


How is information stored and processed? As images? As propositions? As language? These are the central questions addressed by Winn (2004) who highlights research suggesting that “all of the above” is the correct response. Winn suggest conceptions of images and propositions along with a model of how information is processed and stored in memory.
Conceptions of Images and Propositions

Research suggests that an image is not merely a picture stored and run within memory. Instead, many researchers compare images to percepts, or mental snapshots arising and constructed from experiences. Clark (cited in Winn, 2004) suggests relationships among percepts, images, and memory, as well as a process where information is transferred from one level to another. This conception has led to a definition of an image as an interpretation of what is perceived by the physical eye and what is constructed and recalled in memory. In contrast, propositions are abstract representations of information (concepts and the relationships among them, which can be tested empirically as either true or false assertions.

Pictures and Visual Information - Processing and Storage

Winn (2004) suggests that whether information is encoded and stored as images or propositions depends upon the type of information and how the learner will use the information. Research suggests that realistic pictures are processed as visual images and that if learners are required to remember the picture, the information appears to be processed as a visual image. In addition, with regard to concrete concepts, pictures tend to be recalled better than words, especially realistic visual images and those presenting the patterns of elements within the pictures. Yet, similar or closely related pictures can cause interference between memory of the image and one similar to it.

Research also suggests that logical pictures (such as diagrams and charts) are processed as propositions. Further, when learners are required to make a translation of visual information into words or when learners are required to solve complex problems, visual information appears to be processed as propositions.

The degree and distance of association among presented concepts also appears to play a factor. Visual images for paired associates are best encoded and recalled when the images are concrete. Further, semantic distance, which is used to describe the relative proportion of common associations, tends to influence processing. Research indicates that instruction which visually displays a logical path of connections and associations across this distance can improve a learner’s ability to make associations and overcome this distance.

Influence of Paper

This paper suggests the importance of considering both the type of information to be encoded, as well as how the learner will be required to use and recall information when making decisions to use visual images. If the learner is faced with abstract concepts, diagrams and charts may be most appropriate. In contrast, if the learner will be required to recall concrete concepts, a realistic picture may be best. In addition, images should be used to help learners make logical connections between and among concepts.

Reflection 2 – Kulhavy, Stock, Woodard and Haygood


Kulhavy, Stock, Woodard and Haygood (1993) report findings of two experiments which suggest that memory of structural prosperities of a map impact recall of text. Their research builds off of prior theories and study of dual-coding which suggests that when verbal and visual material is presented together subsequent retrieval is enhanced. Kulhavy et al. based their research on two primary theories: 1) the elaboration hypothesis and 2) dual-coding hypothesis.


The elaboration hypothesis suggests that the dual presentation creates multiple instances within memory which in turn improves the opportunity for future retrieval due a) to more than one instance of the memory and b) to the greater ability to infer characteristics from the dual presentation. The dual-coding hypothesis suggests that the verbal and visual information is stored separately in memory, but they are linked via referential connections, as suggested from the works of Paivio. While viewed slightly differently, these theories suggest that dual representations (and redundant codes) in memory increase the likelihood that the information will later be retrieved.

Research Basis

Prior research by Schwartz and Kulhavy (as cited in Kulhavy et al., 1993) indicates that retrieval of text based events is increased when the events are recalled along with an associated feature on a map. While this could be explained by either elaboration or dual-coding theories, Schwartz and Kulhavy found that the recall was greatest when the features where on the map versus in a list outside of the map which infers that the organization of the map impacts retrieval. They suggest that this is due to both a cueing (additional information) and computational effect (more load on memory to shift attention between the map and the list). This led to their research prediction that the better a map’s structure is encoded, the better the recall of related text events. Two separate experiments were set up to test this predication.

Research Findings

Kulhavy et al. (1993) report findings that support their predictions regarding dual-coding theory. The structural relationship of features on the map predicted the subjects’ recall of related text events. However, the findings did not indicate that visual icons or color positively influenced recall. In fact, color words appeared to reduce recall which Kulhavy et al. assume arises from the interference during encoding.
Influence of Research and Paper

This paper suggests the importance of presenting learners with dual representations within instruction. By presenting the learner with an organized visual representation, subsequent retrieval of text based information is improved.

Also, the research also suggests overt (eye-catching) visual displays can have an adverse effect and interfere with encoding. As seen by the reduced recall associated with the use of color words, subjects appeared to be distracted by the eye-catching words. Therefore, uses of attention getting visual displays may pose an unintended negative effect on learning.

While the reported findings build upon prior research on dual-coding theory and suggest support for the theory, the researchers do little to suggest opportunities for further research within their conclusions. However, as discussed below, other researchers have not only furthered this line of research, but also challenged the findings of this report.

Reflection 3 – Griffin and Robinson


Griffin and Robinson (2005) report findings from a study in which they challenge the outcomes of previous research that suggest spatial and visual information on maps facilitate text retention. Within this prior research, including work by Kulhavy et al. discussed above, subjects who viewed maps recalled more associated text than other students who did not view the maps. The prior research, in support of the conjoint retention hypothesis (CRH), concluded that the spatial properties of the map improved recall, as did the descriptive characteristics of feature icons placed on the map.

However, in 2000, Griffin and Robinson (as cited in Griffin & Robinson, 2005) reported study findings under similar experimental conditions which indicated no difference in recall when maps were used instead of lists. In addition, they found no evidence that maps were spatially encoded. Rather, recall seemed impacted by the use of icons over words.

Research Findings

Griffin and Robinson (2005) focused on the following three research questions: 1) does the spatial arrangement of maps or the feature icons, or both, facilitate recall of text, 2) are maps processed more spatially (via the visuospatial sketchpad) than lists, and 3) must maps be spatially encoded to facilitate subsequent text recall? In two similar, but separate experiments, results support their own previous findings, namely that the icons, not the layout of maps, were key to text recall, and a difference was not found between maps and lists on spatial memory tasks. While Griffin and Robinson followed the procedures of previous researchers’ studies, they arrived at different conclusions.

Influence of Research and Paper

The findings of this paper challenge the conclusions of researchers in other similar studies that suggest spatial encoding results in greater recall of text that is accompanied by maps over text alone. In doing so, they raise doubt as to whether maps are encoded more spatially than lists. Further, they question the assumption that encoding of the icon display is necessary and suggest it may even interfere with encoding!

Griffin and Robinson (2005) note that while their findings do not support the conjoint retention hypothesis, the dual-coding hypothesis is supported given that feature icons improved text recall. This is an important consideration for designers. However, as discussed in the conclusion of the paper, the researchers call for further inquiry into when maps should be used over lists.

Reflection 4 – Cassidy


Lamenting that the boundaries of instructional technology are unclear and too narrowly focused, Cassidy (1982) attempts to outline a theoretical perspective for future analysis of education and instructional technology. He does so by conceiving of education as a social system and professionals in instruction technology as social scientists. As such, he compares the social interaction within the education system to sign interaction in which both the sign components and their relationships are considered.

Cassidy (1982) asserts that the entire educational system is represented by a) teacher, b) student, c) content, d) environment. This is likely true if the environment becomes an “everything else” catch all. He matches these educational system boundaries (encompassing everything?) with social (sociological, anthropological, psychological, biological) factors. As he notes on p. 88, this match allows an analysis of important interrelationships which can be defined and explored “without regard to content, academic level, or environment, and without prejudice for method.”

Influence of Paper

The paper would have been much stronger had it been framed as a discussion of how instructional technology professionals can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of instruction by placing a primary focus on the interplay among teachers, students, content, and the environment, as well as the impact of intervening social factors. However, the paper’s thrust is lost within an attempt devise a justification for why those in instructional technology have a right to concern themselves with these core features of the educational system.

Reading this paper, one experiences an “I guess you had to be there” moment. As is alluded to in the paper, those in instructional technology seemed to be going through an identity crisis. Are instructional technologists practitioners? Scientists? Audio-visual specialists? Process experts? Unfortunately, the end-game (defining the boundaries of instructional technology) is left as an incomplete afterthought which is secondary to the presentation of the premise under which the paper is framed. While the author admits the paper is conceptual, the conceptual framework and comparisons outside of education seem to overreach. The message would have been far more effective (and helpful to professionals in instructional technology) if the paper had begun on page 82 and eliminated the entire “exposition of semiotics” framework.

Cassidy, M. F. (1982). Toward Integration: Education, Instructional Technology and Semiotics. ECTJ, 30(2), 75-89.

Griffin, M. M. & Robinson, D. H. (2005) Does spatial or visual information in maps facilitate text recall? Reconsidering the conjoint retention hypothesis. ETR&D, 53(10) p23-36,

Kulhavy, R. W., Stock, W. A., elaboration and dual coding theories: Psychology, 106 (4), 483-498.

Winn, W. (2004). Cognitive perspectives in psychology. In D. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, 2nd Ed. Chapter 4, pp. 179-112