Detailed bugs or bugging details? The influence of perceptual richness across elementary school years


Visualizations are commonly used in educational materials; however, not all visualizations are equally effective at promoting learning. Prior research has supported the idea that both perceptually rich and bland visualizations are beneficial for learning and generalization. We investigated whether the perceptual richness of a life cycle diagram influenced children’s learning of metamorphosis, a concept that prior work suggests is difficult for people to generalize. Using identical materials, Study 1 (N = 76) examined learning and generalization of metamorphosis in first- and second-grade students, and Study 2 (N = 53) did so in fourth- and fifth-grade students. Bayesian regression analyses revealed that first and second graders learned more from the lesson with the perceptually rich diagram. In addition, fourth and fifth graders generalized more with the bland diagram, but these generalizations tended to be incorrect (i.e., generalizing metamorphosis to animals that do not undergo this type of change). These findings differ from prior research with adults, in which bland diagrams led to more correct generalizations, suggesting that the effect of perceptual richness on learning and generalization might change over development.

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 213, 105269
David Menendez
David Menendez
Postdoctoral Research fellow

My research interests include cognitive development, diagrams, and STEM education