Finger pointing to support learning from split-attention examples

Publication Name

Educational Psychology


We investigated whether finger pointing is an effective cognitive-load self-management strategy to mitigate the split-attention effect during learning. This effect holds that learning from split-attention examples consisting of spatially separated, but mutually referring text and picture, is less effective than learning from equivalent spatially integrated sources. One-hundred-and-twenty-nine undergraduates studied a picture with accompanying text about the nephron in a between-subjects design with the factors strategy use (pointing vs. no pointing) and instructional format (split-attention vs. integrated). The split-attention effect was confirmed by results on a comprehension test and a combined measure of learning effort and test performance (i.e. instructional efficiency). However, evidence for the benefits of pointing was only found for retention performance (i.e. not for comprehension performance and cognitive load ratings) for participants who learned from the split-attention example (i.e. not for participants who learned from the integrated example). Replications are invited to examine pointing as a self-management strategy.

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