Modality Effects on Memory for Multimedia Messages
Eric Jones & Sriram Kalyanaraman (PhD Students)
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar
For a complete report of this research, see:
Sundar, S. S., Kalyanaraman, S., & Jones, E. (2000, July). Modality
effects on memory for multimedia messages. Paper presented to the Sociology
and Social Psychology Division at the 23rd General Assembly and Scientific
Conference of the International Association for Media and Communication
Research (IAMCR), Singapore.
The growing importance of the World Wide Web (WWW) offers interesting
possibilities for exporing differences between different modalities. While
traditional communication research has largely examined the differences
between radio and TV, such research has also confounded modality with
medium. The computer, on the other hand, offers the unique advantage of
being able to combine different modalities such as text, audio, and video
within a single medium. Drawing on the Dual Coding Theory (DCT), which
suggests that different modalities are processed in separate sub-systems
of the brain with the conclusion that two modalities are more memorable
than one, this study explored the effects of two modalities (text-audio)
versus a single modality (text only) on memory.
Based on the DCT, it was hypothesized that people who were exposed to
a message with two modalities would have higher memory scores than people
who were exposed to the same message with only a single modality.
Thirty-one participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions
(text, text-audio) in a between-participants experiment. Participants
were exposed to a motivational message, and equivalence was maintained
across both the experimental conditions except that participants in the
text-audio condition listened to the message while simultaneously reading
it, whereas participants in the text condition read only the message on
a computer screen. After message exposure, participants were asked to
fill out a questionnaire containing measures of memory.
Hypothesis: Supported. An analysis of the data revealed that there was
a significant difference in memory between the two experimental conditions.
Specifically, participants in the text-audio condition remembered significantly
more aspects of the message than did participants in the text-only condition.
This can be seen from the graph below, where TA refers to text-audio,
and TO refers to text-only.
An important implication of this study is that the computer can be used
to control for medium differences and at the same time explore modality
differences. Also, the results indicate that two modalities are preferable
to a single modality. This is of enormous practical significance to Web
designers as they make decisions regarding the optimal use of multimedia
features offered by the new medium.