The Influence of Visual and Temporal Dynamics on Split Attention: Evidences from Eye Tracking

The Influence of Visual and Temporal Dynamics on Split Attention: Evidences from Eye Tracking

Florian Schmidt-Weigand (University of Kassel, Germany)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-158-2.ch006
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This chapter introduces eye tracking as a method to observe how the split of visual attention is managed in multimedia learning. The chapter reviews eye tracking literature on multirepresentational material. A special emphasis is devoted to recent studies conducted to explore viewing behavior in learning from dynamic vs. static visualizations and the matter of pacing of presentation. A presented argument is that the learners’ viewing behavior is affected by design characteristics of the learning material. Characteristics like the dynamics of visualization or the pace of presentation only slightly influence the learners’ visual strategy, while user interaction (i.e., learner controlled pace of presentation) leads to a different visual strategy compared to system-paced presentation. Taking viewing behavior as an indicator of how split attention is managed the harms of a split source format in multimedia learning can be overcome by implementing a user interaction that allows the learner to adapt the material to perceptual and individual characteristics.
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“Before information can be stored (…), it must be extracted and manipulated in working memory.” (Paas, Tuovinen, Tabbers, & Van Gerven, 2003, p. 64).

In multimedia learning environments, a learner often has to extract and integrate information from different sources of information like words and pictures. Empirical evidences as well as theoretical considerations led to various instructional design principles to present those different sources of information in a learner supporting fashion (e.g. Mayer, 2001, 2005; Sweller, van Merrienboer, & Paas, 1998). The attentional, perceptual, and cognitive demands of multimedia instruction, however, are mostly inferred from learners’ performance on subsequent tasks or self-reported difficulties with the materials at hand. In order to advance theoretical approaches and to refine instructional design principles process-related but subjective measures (e.g. cognitive load) and objective but product-related measures (e.g. learning outcomes) need to be complemented with more objective and process-related measures (Brünken, Plass, & Leutner, 2003; Paas et al., 2003). An often suggested, well suited, albeit – in multimedia learning – seldom-used process-related observation is the learner’s viewing behavior during acquisition.

The absence of studies applying, for example, eye tracking methodology in this area may at least partly be explained by a lack of satisfying theoretical understanding of how the presumably complex cognitive processes involved in multimedia learning correspond to viewing behavior. The chapter tries to take a step towards an understanding of such viewing behavior in multimedia learning environments. Before we can discuss and further investigate how a particular viewing behavior may correspond to a particular learning outcome it is necessary to explore, if and how multimedia design actually affects viewing behavior. Reviewing the eye tracking research on combined presentation of text and pictures and providing recent research results of eye tracking studies in multimedia learning the chapter aims to answer the following questions:

  • 1.

    How do learners split their visual attention during learning from a multimedia instruction? And

  • 2.

    Which attributes of a multimedia instruction moderate a learner’s viewing behavior?



Currently, research on multimedia learning and instructional design is influenced by two theoretical frameworks, cognitive load theory (Sweller et al. 1998) and Mayer’s (2001) cognitive theory of multimedia learning. The main aim of these theoretical approaches is to base instructional design on “how the human mind works” (Mayer, 2001, p. 41). The most central concept of human cognitive architecture in both, the cognitive load theory and the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, is working memory. The central role of working memory for the matter of understanding and learning stems from the assumption that, simply stated, working memory is the gateway between the external world and the internal cognitive entities. Meaningful learning requires the learner to select relevant information, to organize that information in a coherent structure, and to integrate this structure into existing knowledge. Working memory plays an essential role since it is here, where the selection, organization, and integration processes are assumed to take place.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Robert Zheng
Chapter 1
Renae Low
Our knowledge of human cognitive architecture has advanced dramatically in the last few decades. In turn, that knowledge has implications for... Sample PDF
Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design in a Multimedia Context
Chapter 2
Peter E. Doolittle
This chapter addresses the role that working memory capacity (WMC) plays in learning in multimedia environments. WMC represents the ability to... Sample PDF
Multimedia Learning and Working Memory Capacity
Chapter 3
Anne E. Cook
This chapter focuses on issues dealing with the definition and measurement of cognitive load in multimedia and other complex learning activities.... Sample PDF
Measurement of Cognitive Load During Multimedia Learning Activities
Chapter 4
Stephen K. Reed
This chapter discusses a theoretical framework for designing multimedia in which manipulation, rather than perception, of objects plays the... Sample PDF
Manipulating Multimedia Materials
Chapter 5
Katharina Scheiter, Eric Wiebe, Jana Holsanova
Multimedia environments consist of verbal and visual representations that, if appropriately processed, allow for the construction of an integrated... Sample PDF
Theoretical and Instructional Aspects of Learning with Visualizations
Chapter 6
Florian Schmidt-Weigand
This chapter introduces eye tracking as a method to observe how the split of visual attention is managed in multimedia learning. The chapter reviews... Sample PDF
The Influence of Visual and Temporal Dynamics on Split Attention: Evidences from Eye Tracking
Chapter 7
Tad T. Brunyé, Tali Ditman, Jason S. Augustyn
Multiformat and modality interfaces have become popular and effective tools for presenting information in training and instructional systems.... Sample PDF
Spatial and Nonspatial Integration in Learning and Training with Multimedia Systems
Chapter 8
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We claim that the Web has the potential to be a quintessential multimedia environment for complex learning, particularly in ill-structured domains.... Sample PDF
New Forms of Deep Learning on the Web: Meeting the Challenge of Cognitive Load in Conditions of Unfettered Exploration in Online Multimedia Environments
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In the field of multimedia learning, although research on cognitive effects and their implications for instructional design is rich, research on the... Sample PDF
Motivation and Multimedia Learning
Chapter 10
Min Liu, Paul Toprac, Timothy T. Yuen
The purpose of this study is to investigate students’ engagement with a multimedia enhanced problem-based learning (PBL) environment, Alien Rescue... Sample PDF
What Factors Make a Multimedia Learning Environment Engaging: A Case Study
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Michael J. Hannafin, Richard E. West, Craig E. Shepherd
This chapter examines the cognitive demands of student-centered learning from, and with, Web-based multimedia. In contrast to externally-structured... Sample PDF
The Cognitive Demands of Student-Centered, Web-Based Multimedia: Current and Emerging Perspectives
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Lloyd P. Rieber
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Gina J. Mariano
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Fostering Transfer in Multimedia Instructional Environments
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Kirsten R. Butcher, Sebastian de la Chica, Faisal Ahmad, Qianyi Gu, Tamara Sumner, James H. Martin
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Conceptual Customization for Learning with Multimedia: Developing Individual Instructional Experiences to Support Science Understanding
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Mingming Zhou
We suggest that multimedia environments can benefit from learning as well as offer significant capacity to serve as research purposes. Because... Sample PDF
Designing Multimedia to Trace Goal Setting in Studying
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Alan D. Koenig, Robert K. Atkinson
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Using Narrative and Game-Schema Acquisition Techniques to Support Learning from Educational Games
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