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      One size does not fit all: older adults benefit from redundant text in multimedia instruction

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          The multimedia design of presentations typically ignores that younger and older adults have varying cognitive strengths and weaknesses. We examined whether differential instructional design may enhance learning in these populations. Younger and older participants viewed one of three computer-based presentations: Audio only (narration), Redundant (audio narration with redundant text), or Complementary (audio narration with non-redundant text and images). Younger participants learned better when audio narration was paired with relevant images compared to when audio narration was paired with redundant text. However, older participants learned best when audio narration was paired with redundant text. Younger adults, who presumably have a higher working memory capacity (WMC), appear to benefit more from complementary information that may drive deeper conceptual processing. In contrast, older adults learn better from presentations that support redundant coding across modalities, which may help mitigate the effects of age-related decline in WMC. Additionally, several misconceptions of design quality appeared across age groups: both younger and older participants positively rated less effective designs. Findings suggest that one-size does not fit all, with older adults requiring unique multimedia design tailored to their cognitive abilities for effective learning.

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          Most cited references 34

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          The magical number 4 in short-term memory: a reconsideration of mental storage capacity.

           M N Cowan (2001)
          Miller (1956) summarized evidence that people can remember about seven chunks in short-term memory (STM) tasks. However, that number was meant more as a rough estimate and a rhetorical device than as a real capacity limit. Others have since suggested that there is a more precise capacity limit, but that it is only three to five chunks. The present target article brings together a wide variety of data on capacity limits suggesting that the smaller capacity limit is real. Capacity limits will be useful in analyses of information processing only if the boundary conditions for observing them can be carefully described. Four basic conditions in which chunks can be identified and capacity limits can accordingly be observed are: (1) when information overload limits chunks to individual stimulus items, (2) when other steps are taken specifically to block the recording of stimulus items into larger chunks, (3) in performance discontinuities caused by the capacity limit, and (4) in various indirect effects of the capacity limit. Under these conditions, rehearsal and long-term memory cannot be used to combine stimulus items into chunks of an unknown size; nor can storage mechanisms that are not capacity-limited, such as sensory memory, allow the capacity-limited storage mechanism to be refilled during recall. A single, central capacity limit averaging about four chunks is implicated along with other, noncapacity-limited sources. The pure STM capacity limit expressed in chunks is distinguished from compound STM limits obtained when the number of separately held chunks is unclear. Reasons why pure capacity estimates fall within a narrow range are discussed and a capacity limit for the focus of attention is proposed.
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            Multimedia Learning

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              Cognitive Load Theory and Complex Learning: Recent Developments and Future Directions


                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                28 July 2015
                : 6
                1Applied Cognition in Education Lab, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton ON, Canada
                2Neuropsychology and Cognitive Health Program, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto ON, Canada
                3Multisensory Perception Lab, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton ON, Canada
                4Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton ON, Canada
                Author notes

                Edited by: Yvette Renee Harris, Miami University, USA

                Reviewed by: Juliana Yordanova, Institute of Neurobiology – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria; Elizabeth Marie Cedillos-Whynott, Miami University, USA

                *Correspondence: Jennifer J. Heisz, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada, heiszjj@

                This article was submitted to Developmental Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2015 Fenesi, Vandermorris, Kim, Shore and Heisz.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 39, Pages: 9, Words: 0
                Funded by: SSHRC
                Funded by: Ontario Research Coalition Early Researcher Award
                Funded by: NSERC
                Original Research

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry

                instruction, learning, multimedia, aging, cognition


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