Instructional Science 8 (1979) 2 3 5 - 2 5 1
© Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Amsterdam - Printed in the Netherlands


School of Education, Division of Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., U.S.A.


A brief sketch of the last 20 years of research on instructional pictures is given with an emphasis on the effects of increasingt2) analytical approaches, changing conceptions, and changing research questions. Trends in recent picture research, last 10 years, are discussed in greater depth with emphasis on three groups of studies: pictures vs. pictures, pictures vs. words, and pictures plus words. Selected studies in each group are described along with recent theoretical explanations of the pictorial superiority effect and of other pictorial information processing effects. Some of the possible implications of these trends for educational research and practice are mentioned.


In the last ten years remarkable breakthroughs have o c c u r r e d i n the study o f pictures b o t h within educational c o n t e x t s and outside them. Most observable is the rapid increase in numbers o f studies published in which picture variables are focal. There is also a noticeable i m p r o v e m e n t in the quality o f research, e.g., in design and in the cont rol o f ext raneous variables. Perhaps o f greatest long range i m p o r t is the r e f i n e m e n t in research questions examined and the c ons equent clarification o f basic concept i ons employed. It is the intent o f this article to examine the above trends in greater detail, doing so with reference b o t h to particular studies chosen as examples and to the writings o f those who have a t t e m p t e d to conceptualize, explain, and interpret the related processes and effects in i m p o r t a n t new ways that are o f consequence to b o t h f ur t her research and f u r t h e r practice. However, this is n o t an exhaustive review o f the field o f research on pictures but rather, as implied above, a quite selective one.

236 HISTORICAL OVERVIEW Only within the last twenty years have pictures been intensively studied as stimuli which are of interest in their own right. Before that, pictures were simply employed in other kinds of research such as in media research, where pictures were assumed to be an integral part of certain media, or in psychological research where pictures were convenient, replicable stimuli for studies of visual perception, memory, etc. In early media research the operative concepts were "media" and "learning," b o t h relatively holistic and undifferentiated. The assumption was t h a t media, by virtue only o f their being media, had important and unique effects on learning. Within this framework studies were often gross intermedia comparisons, such as film vs. slides, and measures were typically limited to verbal recall. The potential sources o f uncontrolled and unexamined variance were numerous, e.g., within media variables, learner and subject matter variables. Hence it was difficult to make definitive statements about the findings of such research, and overgeneralization of findings was common. In the psychological studies of this period pictorial stimuli were typically undifferentiated outline drawings of single objects, i.e., very simple pictures in contrast to the above media studies, b u t involved much more controlled and diversified tasks and response measures than in the media studies. Then alternative operative conceptions of pictorial stimuli began to be generated. Miller (1957) wrote about the "cues" affecting learning from films: visual cues, realism cues, and, most importantly, relevant cues. Pictures could not only mirror reality but could selectively present or withhold a great variety of cues, some of them relevant to the learning situation and others irrelevant, some of them salient (Lumsdaine, 1961 ) and others obscure, some of them of high fidelity to reality (Gibson, 1954) and some of low. Further, instructional cues were conceived as being o f two basic sign types, iconic and digital (Knowlton, 1966), and these sign types were to be conceptually distinguished from the perceptual modalities involved, vision and audition (Conway, 1967). Additionally the effects of pictorial cues could be diversified, e.g., attention, recognition, memory, concept formation, attitude change, and could vary across, and interact with, learner characteristics. These new conceptions facilitated the advent of pictorial research which was much more analytical, revealing more basic differences between media but also revealing previously unexamined commonalities across media. In a word, research broke out of the conceptual barriers of " m e d i a " and "learning" (verbal recall). With these reconceptualizations came refinements of method - better control of extraneous variables, more sophisticated statistical analyses, more

237 diversified dependent variables, more study or control of interacting variables, e.g., learner traits and task differences. Media-oriented studies turned to intra-media comparisons, i.e., the effects o f variables within programmed instruction, within TV, within film, etc. Studies were such variables as small vs. large step programs, dramatic vs. expository presentations, immediate feedback vs. delayed. Psychologists were also active studying some of the same variables, though with more concern for theoretical explanation than practical application. Within the last ten years further reconceptualization has led to more penetrating questions and studies. Characteristic o f this period was the discovery o f the surprisingly large capacity of pictorial recognition m e m o r y (Shepard, 1967; Standing et al., 1970), the equally surprising efficacy of mental imagery for verbal learning (Bower, 1972), and the physiological evidence from split brain studies of the separate storage o f verbal-sequential information in the left brain and spatial, pictorial-simultaneous information in the right brain (Wittrock, 1978). These have spurred the development and testing of theories addressing the nature o f pictorial information processing and storage, and more particularly the reasons for the pictorial superiority effect in memory. Media researchers and practitioners have increasingly abandoned a holistic approach to media and become more analytical about them, conceiving of them as varying along several basic dimensions, e.g., realistic or abstract, auditory or visual modality, and, more important for present purposes, pictures or words (Levie and Dickie, 1973). Research on pictures today is no longer the special interest o f media researchers but instead is addressing basic issues o f perception and m e m o r y which are of general interest to psychology and education. We are n o w reaping the rewards of the above reconceptualization and refinement in research on pictures. Some of the consequences will be suggested in what follows through a selective examination of several recent pictorial research trends. REVIEWING THE LITERATURE As the instructional picture literature has b e c o m e more diversified in conception and method it has also become more difficult to review and summarize. A t t e m p t s to realize some generalizations have employed three different approaches: conduct a series o f closely related studies, e.g., Levin, Lesgold, Dwyer, Rohwer, Paivio; or conduct a single multivariate study incorporating several levels of each major type of pertinent variable, e.g., Rohwer and Harris (1975); or review a highly selected set of studies which are enough alike in important ways to permit comparison and generalization, e.g., Levin and Lesgold (1978). Examples of each o f these approaches follow.

238 One of a number of studies by Dwyer (1970) will illustrate the first approach. Dwyer began his series of studies with a single lecture on the human heart and examined in successive studies the different effects (drawing test, identification, terminology , comprehension) of a variety of pictorial treatments (line drawing, shaded drawing, model, photograph - all in black and white or color) in a variety of media (slides, television, programmed instruction) for a wide age range of learners. Perhaps the most instructive generalization resulting is that pictorial treatments (constant throughout) interact with instructional objectives and with media types. For example, for the terminology test the lecture-alone treatment was adequate, while for the drawing test the simple line drawing treatment was preferable. Also, while simplified line drawings were optimum for fixed-pace media (TV and slides with tape), the realistic photograph was o p t i m u m for learnerpaced instruction (programmed instruction) where there was time to examine the detail. With reference to instructional picture research, the greatest weakness of this series is that the pictorial treatments have remained constant and can be criticized as being only one exemplar of each broad category, e.g. drawing or photo, and probably not the most "readable" exemplar possible. The second approach to facilitating comparison and generalization has been to incorporate in one study as many as possible of the kinds of variables that in separate studies have yielded conflicting results. A study of media effects on prose learning (Rohwer and Harris, 1975) is a good example. Pictures, oral words, and printed words were compared singly and in all combinations. Three kinds of effects were compared (verification, short answer, and free recall) across two kinds of fourth-graders (high SES white and low SES black). The pictures-alone treatment was the least effective across the three tests and the two types of learners. However, there was a significant main effect for the picture-plus-oral-verbal treatment. That combination was o p t i m u m across all measures for the low SES black children b u t was exceeded for the high SES white children b y the oral-verbal alone for the verification measure and the picture-plus-print-verbal for the short anwer measure. Thus, five of six comparisons favored some combination of words and pictures over either alone. The third method of comparison and generalization was that of a review o f a highly selected group of studies which has several focal characteristics in common. A recent review of the effects of pictures on prose learning in children (Levin and Lesgold, 1978) is a substantial exampEe. The authors examined studies which shared five important commonalities: prose passages were presented orally, subjects were elementary school children, passages were unfamiliar fictional narratives, pictures completely overlapped the story content, and learning was evidenced by factual recall, especially cued recall. Throughout the twelve such studies cited, pictures reliably facili-

239 rated prose learning. This consistent result was found across methods of presentation (slides, booklets), across learner characteristics (sex, age, SES, ability), and across passage characteristics (length, complexity). A c o m m o n criticism of such studies, which simply add information, e.g., pictures, to a control condition, e.g., the verbal presentation, is that they only prove the obvious fact that additional information, practice, or time aids learning. However, in the above studies, while pictures may have added information, the criterial information for answering the questions was in the control condition too, the verbal presentation. Further, in some of the above studies the pictures and oraI prose were presented simultaneously and thus provided no more learning time than the control. Where the pictures and words were presented sequentially, the experimental condition provided both additional time and practice. However, one study (Levin et al., 1976) controlled for this b y providing for repetition in the control condition, that is, the speaker read each sentence twice. The additional time and practice increased learning, b u t learning was still reliably inferior to the picture-plus-oral-prose version. There follows a selective review of other contemporary studies which will be divided into three sections: one reporting studies of picture variables (P vs. P), one reporting comparisons with words (P vs. W), and one reporting studies o f interactive combinations o f pictures with words (P plus W). Throughout, some of the pertinent theoretical explanations for findings will be noted.

Pictures versus Pictures PICTURE VARIABLES AND CHARACTERISTICS Compared to verbal research, word vs. word, the study of pictures has been much less extensive. Part of the reason is that existing taxonomies of picture attributes are few and inadequate. C o m m o n comparisons have been between photos and drawings or b e t w e e n color and black and white pictures. A more conceptually adequate way of incorporating such variables is the concrete-to-abstract continuum, i.e., color p h o t o to outline drawing. A similar conception that has been studied is complexity, c o m m o n l y operationalized as the number of objects or number of details in a picture. (See Vurpillot, 1968, for an interesting study of the development of children's ability to systematically examine complex pictures.) A t a x o n o m y that deals with such picture attributes is that by Fleming (1966). However, it is probably accurate to state that, while these pictorial variables have sometimes been shown to influence attention and learning, there is no k n o w n intrinsic instructional merit in them that functions across all contexts. Any one vari-

240 able may acquire significance only as it represents advantageously what is criterial for the subject matter being taught; thus the more powerful conception for instruction is that of the relevant cue vs. the irrelevant. Establishing what cues are relevant for different learners and different subject matter remains an important research priority. The study of color continues and has benefited from the distinction between color that serves to attract or direct attention and color that is a criterial attribute of the subject matter. Also the broadening and diversifying of methods to measure color effects has opened new color picture research possibilities (Scanlon, 1970; Plack and Shick, 1974). Pictorial cues that are intended to imply motion in still pictures, such as blurred images or trailing lines, have been but little studied (Friedman and Stevenson, 1975). Another method of categorizing pictures is by the kind of subject matter or information they represent. A taxonomy of the subject matter (object represented) of pictures (Standing, 1971) has served as a basis for selecting representative pictures for recognition studies that require large sample sizes. A study (Allen et al., 1967) showed some relationships between type of subject matter, e.g., with or without concrete referents, and type of presentation, e.g., words or pictures. A taxonomy of the kinds of information (other than motion or interrelationships) in complex pictures (Mandler and Johnson, 1976) has facilitated the design and interpretation of several studies of recognition memory for pictures. The taxonomy is as follows: 1. Inventory information, which specifies what objects a picture contains. 2. Spatial location information, which specifies where the objects are located. This category includes the relative positions of objects, such as "to the right of," "below," "facing," and so on. 3. Descriptive information, which specifies the figurative detail of the objects contained in the inventory, that is, what the objects look like. 4. Spatial composition information, which specifies areas of filled or empty spaces. This aspect of pictures is roughly equivalent to the figure-ground relationships involved in distinguishing a single ob, ject from its background (Mandler and Johnson, 1976, p. 530). The relative importance of these kinds of information for recognizing complex pictures has been demonstrated bY procedures which employ systematic manipulation of such information in distractors. F o r example, initial investigation suggests that changes in inventory information and spatial location information (1 and 2 above) were more accurately recognized than changes in description and spatial composition (3 and 4 above). A study with children indicated a developmental change from first to fifth grade which consisted primarily of improvement in detecting changes in inventory information (addition of an object to the picture or substitution of one ob-

241 ject for another) and in spatial location information (exchange of location of two objects) (Mandler and Robinson, 1978). Another interesting examination of the information in pictures (Baggett, 1975) compared memory for explicit and implicit information in simple four-picture stories. An example of an explicit version was: Picture 1. Man in front of a barber shop (barber pole showing) Picture 2. Man entering the shop Picture 3. Man in chair and barber cutting his hair Picture 4. Man leaving the shop. The implicit version was the same except that in place of picture three was one that showed the man in the barber chair but no barber and no cutting. Thus, Ss viewing the implicit version had to infer the cutting. Immediate tests required Ss to identify the pictures which fit their understanding of the story (some of above pictures and some of same man elsewhere). Results were that subjects seeing the explicit version responded more rapidly than those seeing the implicit version. However, three days later both groups responded at the slower rate. Apparently Ss can readily recognize pictures of plausible inferences from simple picture stories. Further, explicit surface features of a story fade, or at least are no more accessible in memory than are implicit conceptual aspects. This contemporary study is of particular interest because it pursued picture effects beyond the explicit and literal boundaries frequently ascribed to them. Further, it exemplifies the contemporary interest in theoretical explanations of picture processing effects. Another important sub-grouping of "pictures" which is being studied is the diagram in its various forms: graphs, tables, charts, etc. Much of the pertinent research literature has recently been reviewed by Macdonald-Ross (1977) and Wright (1977). Learning from instructional pictures is obviously influenced by factors other than the characteristics of pictures as stimuli, e.g., time of exposure to the picture and sequence of exposure to several pictures. An adequate minimum exposure time necessary for high levels of picture recognition was found (Shaffer and Shiffrin, 1972) to be 1 - 2 seconds. More recent data (Potter, 1976) indicates that about 1/2 second total (400 msec) is required. However, such figures now appear to be influenced by the complexity of the visual task; for where distractors are quite similar to target pictures (a much more complex task than the typical recognition situation) recognition was improved by increasing exposure from 10 seconds to 20 seconds (Mandler and Johnson, 1976). Examples of the effects of picture sequence have come from film research (Isenhour, 1975; Giannetti, 1976). In general the meaning of scene B has been shown to vary according to the meaning of the preceding scene A. More work on sequence effects can profitably be done.

242 A diversity of ways of conceptualizing and categorizing picture variables has been noted. The research question is: Which conceptions, some of these or others, will have the strongest linkages to important instructional effects?

Examples of picture effects which have been investigated other than recognition learning and verbal learning include attitudes, procedural learning, verbal chain learning, transfer, thinking. Mention of a few such studies follows. A study of children's attitudes toward stories presented with or without pictures (Samuels et al., 1974) revealed a significant preference for stories with pictures, and, to a lesser degree, stories with color pictures as compared with black and white. A study of procedural learning from pictures (Spangenberg, 1973) revealed that still photos plus verbal descriptions may be as effective as motion pictures where the actions represented can be readily understood from common labels and involve only single instead of simultaneous actions. In another study of procedural learning (Booher, 1975) pictorial, print (verbal) and various combinations of these were compared. The print-only version yielded the lowest error rate but large performance times, while the picture-only version had the opposite effect. The best versions by both criteria were primarily pictorial but with related or redundant words. The learning of verbal chains by means of a pictorial diagram was investigated (Holliday, 1976) with high school biology students. The one experimental diagram, very complex looking, dealt with the water cycle, the carbon dioxide cycle, the oxygen cycle, and the nitrogen cycle. It contained line drawings of about twenty objects linked by about thirty directional lines, all labelled. Instructive questions below the diagram were intended to involve the learner in studying out relationships (verbal chains). Post-test questions were multiple choice statements (verbal chains) of the critical relationships. The diagram was found to be reliably more effective than a 1000-word narrative text version that contained the same critical statements (verbal chains) plus non-critical statements. While this study demonstrates that pictorial material can facilitate quite complex learning, it also is apparent that the diagram was very carefully designed to emphasize the critical relationships and, by way of appropriate questions, involve the learner in identifying them. The approach merits further study. The facilitation of transfer by means of pictures was investigated in a prose learning situation (Royer and Cable, 1976). The transfer of learning from an initial abstract passage to a second abstract passage was significantly increased where five line drawings were added to the initial abstract passage. Probably the picture effect of most far reaching significance to date is

243 the effect on the information processing skills and strategies of the viewer. One way this idea is currently conceptualized is as "visual literacy". Through much exposure to pictures, people not only become "literate" in reading pictures, b u t in the process their ways of thinking may be modified. Salomon has expressed it as a relation between external codes (media forms) and internal symbolic codes (mental imagery). "External coding systems that serve for communication purposes can be incorporated or internalized to serve in a representational capacity; a n d . . , the codes, once internalized, can be schematized (i.e., detached from their original context) and thus serve as schemes of t h o u g h t " (Salomon, 1974b p. 402). The idea is that experience with picture media may foster the development o f mental codes that provide b o t h generalized schema for representing the world and generalized strategies for thinking a b o u t it. For example, in one study (Salomon, 1974a) Ss were repeatedly shown films that were designed to model certain cognitive processes. One film with repeated zooms-in on details in a painting was expected to develop the capacity to select out detail. Another film which repeatedly showed the unfolding of solid objects, e.g. cubes, into flat surfaces was expected to develop a visualization or visual manipulation skill. Transfer tests indicated that experimental Ss were significantly superior to control Ss in such cognitive skills. This kind of research raises the possibility o f an eventual t a x o n o m y o f picture characteristics (codes) which are correlated with basic mental operations (see the iconic code continuum proposed b y Levie, 1978). Visual literacy might be seen as c o m p e t e n c y in these mental operations, and pictures seen as instruments to develop literacy or to compensate for visual illiteracy. The research possibilities here are considerable. More on the processing o f pictorial information follows. PICTURE PROCESSING A contemporary theory of information processing, dual-coding theory, assumes a separate process, specialized for pictorial information, which includes mental imagery, i.e., a more-or-less clear mental "picture". The mental image has been studied in recent years as a mnemonic for verbal learning and as a factor in concept formation, imagination and creativity, and psychotherapy. So extensive has the conception o f mental imagery become that a recent review (Pressley, 1977) considers pictures only as a means of imposing mental imagery, and contrasts them with other means o f inducing imagery, for example, through instruction. It follows that imagery, as the most characteristic mental manifestation of learning from pictures, will probably be o f increasing interest to instructional picture researchers. The pictorial characteristics o f imagery have begun to be investigated, e.g., the relative sizes o f imaged objects (Paivio, 1975),

244 the scanning of images (Kosslyn, 1973), the spatial movement and manipulation of imagery (Cooper and Shepard, 1973), and the relative vividness of imagery (Marks, 1973). Though imagery appears to be a powerful aid to memory, inducing or imposing it may be difficult, especially for children. Thus, while pictures obviously produce perceptual imagery, they don't necessarily produce memory imagery (mental imagery). One way of making sure a learner forms mental imagery is to require that he draw the object or event from memory. For example, in a pictorial discrimination task (Levin et al., 1977) childrenwere shown pairs of pictured objects and instructed to remember one object (the starred one) in each pair. The three treatments were: regular discrimination instructions, finger tracing on the picture the outline of the correct object, and finger tracing in the air the outline of the object. Discrimination tests showed no difference in the first two conditions but a significant facilitating effect for the latter. Presumably, tracing a perceived image (picture) did not necessarily involve memory, while turning away from the picture and drawing it in the air did involve a mental (memory) image. It seems clear from mental imagery research that putting objects together, preferably interactively, in an image is a powerful facilitator of associative memory (Pressley, 1977). It follows that objects grouped interactively in a picture may produce similar imagery and hence also facilitate recall of those objects as a group. This effect has been demonstrated, e.g. by Davidson (1964), but further research in applied contexts seems justified.

Pictures versus Words About ten years ago the superiority of pictures over words in memory was convincingly demonstrated in a recognition memory study (Shepard, 1967). More recent studies have confirmed these findings, extended them to other forms of learning~ and added a few qualifiers. However , studies generally have shifted to the question of why the pictorial superiority effect. Early speculations were that pictures, e.g., a drawing of a house, provided a greater amount and diversity of information (more "hooks" for memory) than words, e.g., a printed name "house". A similar conception is more recently referred to as simply "sensory level" factors. Another explanation was based on frequency theory, the idea being that individual pictures are relatively unique (have been encountered infrequently if at all) and are therefore memorable, while individual words are relatively common (have been encountered frequently) and are thereby less individually memorable (Reznick, 1977). A more widely examined explanation is dual-coding theory (Paivio, 1971), the idea being that there are two memory systems, one for verbal symbolic processes and the other for non-verbal imagery processes. While

245 words can be recoded and processed as mental images and pictures recoded and processed as mental words, the latter is more likely. The effect is that pictures are more often dual-coded, verbally and imaginally, and thus better retained. This explanation seems currently to have the most support, though recent evidence that pictures may not be coded verbally where task conditions do not require it, casts some doubt on the dual-coding explanation o f picture superiority (Nelson and Reed, 1976). A better understanding of the pictorial superiority effect has been sought through e x a m i n a t i o n of conditions under which it fails. Where words and pictures are presented very rapidly (Paivio and Csapo, 1969), m e m o r y for pictures is no longer superior. Where interference between pictures is produced, either by perceptual similarity or by conceptual similarity, m e m o r y for pictures may drop sharply (Nelson et al., 1976). Suffice it to say that the explanation for the pictorial superiority effect is not established nor is the processing o f pictures well understood as yet. Further, it is apparent t h a t in m a n y applications pictures are not superior to words. In two studies previously described (procedural learning, Booher, 1975; story learning, Rohwer and Harris, 1975) where pictures vs. words vs. all combinations were compared, the picture-only version was least effective and the verbal-only highly effective, at least for some learners. One can contend that the pictures used did not cover the critical content or were otherwise inadequate, but the data of both studies indicate that in combination with words they became the best all around condition. Perhaps a distinction must be made between memorizing pictures per se (being able to recognize them or recall them as stimulus objects) and learning some content from them (a procedure or concept or story), pictures being generally superior in the former case and sometimes inferior (alone) in the latter. While m e m o r y for pictures as pictures would be pertinent in the study of art or photography, in most other subjects pictures are pertinent primarily as they depict or refer to particular facts, details, relations. Hence the very attributes that may contribute to the memorability o f pictures (unique and full of information) m a y detract from or hide the few objects or relations that are essential to a science or history lesson. Thus a strong case can be made for augmenting pictures with words in instructional applications. However the issue deserves further study.

Pictures plus Words About ten years ago the superiority of imagery (pictures in m e m o r y ) over standard verbal rehearsal for memorizing pairs or groups of words was convincingly demonstrated (Bower, 1972), though imagery had long been known as an effective m n e m o n i c device. Thus began a rigorous examination

246 of the interactive effects of pictorial and verbal processes. The questions being asked are reciprocal; In what ways can pictures (or images) facilitate verbal learning and in what ways can words (or verbal processes) facilitate pictorial learning?In general, work on the former question is both more extensive and more convincing. AIDING VERBAL LEARNING Already described is the extensive review (Levin and Lesgold, 1978) which was clearly supportive of a facilitating effect of pictures on children's learning of stories. Remember that the pictures used in those studies completely overlapped the content of the story, a condition essential for control o f P vs. W studies but not typical o f P plus W studies and applications. Further the verbal part was presented orally and thus could, in audio channel, be received simultaneously with pictures in the visual channel. In contrast, where words and pictures are b o t h visual, as in an illustrated text, they compete; the learner may look at words or at pictures or divide his time between or take extra time for both. Where b o t h pictures and words contain important information they may justify the extra time either by providing practice (repetition) on the information or b y providing additional information. The competing o f pictures and print for learner attention and for his visual processing capacity accounts for much of the criticism of pictures in relation to reading texts (Samuels, 1970). Especially for young readers, the competition can reduce learning from text (Levin and Divine-Hawkins, 1974). However where learners have been instructed to form mental images after reading each page of a printed story, learning was reliably improved (Pressley, 1976). As with other aspects of instructional picture research the P plus W research has benefited from abandoning global comparisons and fostering analysis and conceptualization o f plausible conditions under which pictures might be facilitating. Several studies of this type will be described. One plausible function of pictures would be to provide explicitness where verbal material is vague or contradictory. F o r example, one ~study (Bock and Milz, 1977) paired simple subject-predicate line drawings with sentences in which the referents for pronouns were ambiguous, e.g., "He has washed it." A drawing of a man and bucket in front of two cars clarifies the referent for "he," while a drawing of two men and a bucket in front of one car clarifies "it". It was predicted that where a picture corrects for the referential ambiguity o f a sentence, learning would increase over where the ambiguity remains. Recall of ambiguous sentences was found to be significantly improved b y the addition o f an unambiguous picture or one in which the subject, at least, was unambiguous. Augmenting the sentences verbally,

247 with adjectives or prepositional phrases, did not increase recall. In another study (Bock, 1978), one effect of a picture preceding a lexically ambiguous sentence was to influence the depth of semantic analysis which subjects applied to the sentence. Pictures might plausibly provide an introduction to a text passage or a review of it, serving to facilitate recall in a way comparable to pre-and postquestions in text. Such a comparison of pictures (subject-generated) and questions produced equal facilitation of text recall for adjunct pictures and adjunct questions (Snowman and Cunningham, 1975). The 2000-word passage was in an experimental booklet which contained either questions throughout regarding pertinent information or instructions throughout to draw pictures of the same pertinent information. Pictures might plausibly add information to text, repeat information in text, or contradict information in text. One study compared the effects of such pictures on the learning of fourth grade children (Peeck, 1974). Conditions included P, W, and P plus W. For information covered in the picture alone or in both pictures and text, the picture conditions were superior to text alone. In conditions where pictures were contradictory to text, children in the picture conditions (P and P plus W) tended to answer in agreement with the pictures, while in the text-only condition they agreed more with the text. The most disputed area of research and practice in picture and word relations is reading. Most writers in the reading research literature are critical of pictures in reading texts (e.g. Concannon, 1975; Rankin and Culhane, 1970; Samuels, 1970). Pictures are judged to be competitive and distracting as well as a crutch that the young reader uses instead of learning the words. Certainly the very difficult task of learning to read requires assiduous attention to words, their spelling, their sound, their syntax, etc. Thus interesting color pictures can be counterproductive at certain stages of learning to read. But again, an analytical approach reveals that learning to read is a multifaceted task and some particular parts of it might plausibly benefit from accompanying pictures. For example, it seems plausible, and is supported by the study reported earlier (Samuels et al., 1974) that color pictures make story books attractive to children, a much more desirable effect than the opposite and quite possibly one that contributes importantly in the pre-reading period to the child's desire to read. Later, when learning to read, the child will encounter many unfamiliar words and may even learn to read some, i.e., learn empty verbalisms. Here a picture dictionary or pictures accompanying a new vocabulary lesson might assure that new words have meaningful referents. Learning meaningless words, like nonsense syllables, is both difficult and senseless. However, it is here that some of the reading literature is most strident. "Linguists are strongly opposed to illustrations only when their use serves

248 to introduce u n k n o w n objects" (Concannon, 1975, p. 255); "Teachers should give up their current practice of directing a child's attention to the picture if the child cannot read the word" (Samuels et al., 1974, p. 246). It would appear that some careful research is required to clarify this issue. One study, for example, dealing with children at a selected stage in learning to read, demonstrated that carefully designed pictures reliably facilitated vocabulary acquisition (Denburg, 1976-1977). The pictures were simple black and white line drawings depicting only the subject and/or predicate of sentences and omitting all background. AIDING PICTURE LEARNING The question as to whether or not verbal labels aid in picture m e m o r y is not clearly resolved. There is considerable contrary evidence, particularly with adults. A recent review (Pressley, 1977) concluded that labels seemed to increase children's recognition m e m o r y for pictures and that the positive effect on recall of pictures was limited to younger children. Of course the instructional question is not the learning of pictures per se (with or without labels), as noted earlier, but the learning of what pictures depict or refer to. Here it seems clear that words can aid in directing attention to the relevant aspects of pictures and in interpreting the pictures in a way consistent with the concept being taught. For example, one study compared the effects o f pre- and post-statements on the recognition of objects in pictures (Bacharach et al., 1976). Pictures were twelve line drawings of pairs o f objects that might naturally occur together, e.g., a horse and wagon. A statement (before or after) might be: "This is a picture of a horse (or wagon)." Recognition test pictures were partly of object pairs like the stimuli, partly of single objects from the stimuli, and partly of new objects. Recognition of objects that had been verbally referred to was significantly greater than for those not referred to. Recognition o f objects not referred to was greater where the verbal references had followed the pictures than where they had preceded. Apparently the effect o'f the pre-statement was to direct attention strongly to one object in the picture. This is consistent with the effect of pre-questions on verbal material and suggests a useful way for instructional designers to direct attention selectively to the relevant aspects of pictures.


This paper has attempted to sketch in broad strokes the course of instructional picture research and to highlight some trends in contemporary research on pictures. The intent throughout has been to emphasize the power of the analysis, the conceptualization, and the research question that

249 precede the conduct of instructional picture research. In the opinion o f this reviewer the most important overall consequence o f picture research for education, b o t h research and practice, is that the picture can no longer be ignored nor even confined for long to the peripheral status o f an optional aid. Pictorial stimuli and responses, e.g., mental imagery, have penetrated deeply the invincible world o f verbal learning and are challenging the venerated provinces of concept learning, problem solving, and thinking. All this confronts the educational researcher with new problems in conceptualizing learning and performing controlled study o f it. For example, it has proven to be extremely difficult to operationally distinguish between the consequences o f verbal and pictorial stimuli, particularly as that requires the isolation of verbal processing from imaginal processing. The effect is to make questionable any conceptualization o f either picture or word learning that ignores either verbal or imaginal processes. The above appears highly pertinent to the concerns o f those who research, design, or use instructional illustrations, f o r most such materials present words and pictures in some interactive way: text and illustration, film and narration, lecture and overhead transparency.

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