1 Effects 1 Running Head: EFFECTS OF LEARNING METHODS ON MEMORY Effects of Learning Methods on Memory: A Comparison Between Visual and Audio Foothill College Student Foothill College
2 Effects 2 Abstract The present study examines the effects of different learning methods on memory by comparing visual and auditory learning methods. Fifteen college students are randomly assigned to either visual or audio group. Participants either read an article on their own or have a researcher read to them. Each participant completes a multiplechoice quiz after they read or listened to the article. The result has indicated that visual learning method is more effective than auditory learning method as the visual group has higher memory accuracy compared with the audio group.
3 Effects 3 Effects of Learning Methods on Memory: A Comparison Between Visual and Audio Although knowledge accumulates throughout one s entire life, the ability to learn new things diminishes as time goes by. From the age of 3 to 12, human s brain reaches its most sensitive period in learning (D'Arcangelo, 2000). During the sensitive period, human brain develops rapidly. The neurochemical associated with brain plasticity changes leading to the increase in synapse density (Thomas & Johnson, 2008). Synaptogenesis, myelination of many axons and the increased branching of dendrites cause the brain to be highly sensitive to language, discrimination of sensory stimuli and increases its fine-tuning ability (Pinel, 2006). Human brain is particularly good at learning and memory in the sensitive period. For example, children were capable of learning 50 new vocabularies every day (D'Arcangelo, 2000). Yet, after passing that particular timeframe, people s learning ability degenerates gradually. Therefore, it is crucial for people to obtain as much knowledge as they can during their early years. Because of that, finding the most effective method for learning has always been an important mission for educators. Among numerous learning methods, visual and auditory information processing in particular raise most interests to researchers in education (Salomon, 1979). Visual information is the use of visual media without sound, which includes still pictures, motion photography and visual aids such as PowerPoint and graphs (Pezdek & Stevens, 1984; Pierce & Gallo, 2011). Auditory information is the use of audio media with sound such as radio tape, which does not involve visual media (Pezdek & Stevens, 1984; Pierce & Gallo, 2011). Both visual and auditory learning methods help people to memorize information. However, the effectiveness of the two methods varies. Various studies
4 Effects 4 used children as participants and the results showed that people had better memories for visual information than auditory information (Hayes & Birnbaum, 1980; Pezdek & Stevens, 1984; Pierce & Gallo, 2011). Hayes and Birnbaum (1980) found that children s retention of information portrayed visually was consistently higher than that of auditory information. In their study, participants watched cartoons that were presented either visually, verbally, or both. After watching the cartoon, participants answered recognition questions and the result showed that children tend to focus on visual information and ignore large parts of auditory information unintentionally (Hayes & Birnbaum, 1980). In a related study, pronounced result of visual learning superiority was found. Participants were either given a word list to read or have a researcher read to them and completed a recall test afterwards. Researchers discovered that memory accuracy was dramatically enhanced when visual study presentation was used instead of auditory presentation (Smith & Hunt, 1998). Memory errors were lower when oriented toward visual than toward auditory information, indicating that visual recollections were subjectively experienced as more distinctive than auditory recollections (Gallo & Pierce, 2011). Based on the results in the recognition test and comprehension test, Pezdek and Stevens (1984) concluded that video material appeared to be more salient and more memorable than audio material. Moreover, under the Audio/Visual mismatch condition (audio and video tracks were not from the same television segment), memory for auditory information was reduced more than memory for video information by 25 % (Pezdek & Stevens). Although the modality effect on visual and auditory information has been replicated several times (Hayes & Birnbaum, 1980; Pezdek & Stevens, 1984), the participants were mostly preschoolers and children under the age of 10. None of these
5 Effects 5 studies has included college students as participants. Therefore, it is not clear whether the effect is only applicable to certain age groups, or whether children are more comfortable toward visual learning method. The present study seeks to find out the most effective way of learning by comparing the amount of information that college students retain through visual and auditory learning methods. Participants either read an article on their own or had a researcher read it to them and then completed a multiple-choice quiz. Based on previous studies, we predict that students who use visual learning method will retain more information than students who use audio learning method. Method Participants The sample consisted of 15 college students (mean age of 20). All the participants were recruited independently through the Research Experience Program (REP) organized by Stanford University and local community colleges in the Bay Area. Four males (two freshmen, two sophomores) and eleven females (six freshmen, four sophomores, and one junior) signed up and completed the study for REP credits. Seven participants (four females, three males) were assigned to the audio section while the rest of eight participants (seven females, one male) were placed to the visual section. Materials Six paper documents and a stopwatch were used throughout the study. The independent variables of the study were the two learning methods: visual learning method and the auditory learning method. The dependent variable was the number of correct answers participants had in the multiple-choice test. An informed consent, which provided brief introduction of the study, was given to participant prior to the
6 Effects 6 actual study. Participants were then given an instruction sheet for either visual or audio section depending on what section they were assigned to. The article How Fear Changes What We Hear (Szalavitz, 2011) excerpted from Time magazine was used as the reading material for the study. A reading test was created particularly for the article by researchers of the study. The reading test consisted of fifteen restricted question (multiple-choice) with four response alternatives for each question. Both visual and audio section used the exact same reading test. All questions were recall questions that asked about the contents in the article. The test performance was used as direct indication of the efficiency of retrieval cues. A stopwatch was used to measure the 5 minutes break between the reading material and the reading test throughout the two sections of the study. Participants were required to complete a demographic survey after the test. The demographic survey consisted of six questions asking personal information such as, gender, age, schooling level, academic information (major, current GPA), and self-evaluation of retention. The debriefing statement that explained the experimental process and revealed the true nature of the study was presented at the end of the study. Procedure Participants signed up for the study through the REP program independently for REP credits. Each time slot lasted for thirty minutes. Participants were asked to sign a consent form that briefly introduced the study. Next, participants were randomly assigned to either visual or audio section of the study. The order of the grouping was determined by randomly assigning an instruction sheet of either visual or audio to the first participant who arrived the laboratory in the first day of our data collection period. In other words, if the first participant was assigned to the visual
7 Effects 7 group, the second one would be assigned to the auditory group and the third one would go back to visual group again. The same rule applied for the entire study. If the participants were assigned to the visual section, they remained in the same room, while participants from the audio section were led to another room. All the participants would then finish reading the instruction sheet. Next, participants of the visual section were reminded to read the article for once only; whereas participants of the audio section would have the researcher read the same article to them once. A five minutes break was given to both sections after reading/listening to the article. After the break, participants of both sections were told to complete the same reading test within ten minutes. Finally, all participants were asked to complete a demographic survey and to read the debriefing statement before they leave. Results Although we got fifteen participants in our true experiment, a significant main effect was found as follow: eight participants who were assigned to the visual section tended to get a higher score (M = , SD = 2.45) of the reading test than the seven participants who were assigned to the audio section (M = 8.143, SD = 3.18) (See Figure 1). In both visual and audio groups, there was actually only one participant (female, 19 years old) who was assigned to the visual group got the highest score (14/15) of the reading test. Besides, in the auditory group, the lowest total score of the reading test was 4 out of 15 and the highest score was 12, whereas the lowest score of the visual group got 7 out of 15, and the highest score was 14. Seven participants were assigned to the audio section. Two of the participants got 4 correct answers and another two participants got 8 correct answers out of those 15 questions, and the other three participants who scored 10, 11 and 12 respectively. In the visual section, two participants scored 11 out of 15, and the other six
8 Effects 8 participants scored 7, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14 respectively. Comparing the total score of the reading test with both visual and auditory groups, there were only three participants who answered 10 questions or above correctly in the audio section; on the contrary, there were five participants who were assigned to the visual section got 10 questions or above correctly. When comparing the total result of the reading test, there was an interesting finding in the visual section that all the participants could answer correctly for two particular questions, which were question 11 and 15, yet there was not any exceptional case in the auditory group. Overall, we noticed that the mean scores for each individual question was higher in the visual group than that of the audio group (see Figure 2). For question 15, there was a great difference between two groups, 28.5 percent of the participants in the audio group answered correctly and 100 percent of the participants in visual group got the correct answer. Similar to question 11, there was 71.4 percent of the audio group got the correct answer and 100 percent of the visual group answered the question correctly. However, for question 2, 9, 14, the audio group had a mean, which was 0.089, 0.071, and greater than the visual group respectively. Discussion Our data does support our initial hypothesis that visual learning method is more effective in helping college students to retain information than auditory learning method. Participants using visual learning method score higher in the memory test than participants using auditory learning method, indicating that the presentation style does have an effect on retention. The visual group outperforms the auditory group by 16%, which infers that participants with information presented visually are able to retain key concepts better than participants presented with auditory information.
9 Effects 9 Besides, the standard deviations of visual (SD = 2.446) and audio (SD = 3.185) group suggest that most scores from the visual group are clustered around the mean score, indicating that there is not a big difference in the participants performance; whereas the relatively dispersed scores from the audio group show that there is a difference in the participants performance. Consistent with previous research (Hayes & Birnbaum, 1980; Smith & Hunt, 1998), our data illustrate that memory accuracy can be affected by presentation styles and people have better memory for visual information than auditory information (Pezdek & Stevens, 1984; Pierce & Gallo, 2011). Similar to Hayes and Birnbaum s study (1980), our data show a slight trend that younger people tend to perform better under visual learning condition than under auditory learning condition. By comparing the ages and mean scores between the two groups, we assume that the mild difference is due to the effect of visual superiority. Visual superiority is defined as the situation that visual stimuli tend to dominate over other modalities in both perceptual and memory tasks (Pezdek & Stevens, 1984). Young people are assumed to be more focused on visual information and pay comparatively less attentions to auditory information (Pezdek & Stevens, 1984) and our findings do support this assumption. Another possible explanation of visual superiority may be due to the retrieval monitoring process in our brains. Pierce and Gallo (2011) discovered that retrievalmonitoring processes are affected by the presentation modality. Based on Smith and Hunt (1998) s findings, visual presentation was found to be more distinctive than auditory presentation and this difference facilitated memory discrimination, because even though both modalities are likely to activate a phonological code, only visual presentation is likely to activate an orthographic code. These additional features from visual presentation might facilitate a monitoring process that suppresses false memory
10 Effects 10 and thus, retention of visual presentation is higher than that of auditory presentation (Pierce & Gallo, 2011). In addition, superiority of visual over audio presentation in retention is found when the output of recall is written but not when it is spoken (Kellogg, 2001). Writing activates orthographic features in preparation for motor output, and these provide a useful recognition check on visually encoded information generated for recall. However, verbal recall of information does not activate orthographic features. Thus, when compared to visual-written recall condition, retention is lower for auditory information than visual information because only in this case are orthographic as well as phonological features activated at recall (Kellogg, 2001). Due to time limitation for data collection, we failed to recruit a significant sample size (n = 15) in our study. This limitation greatly reduces our research s generalizability and increases our chances of having a biased sample. Moreover, because of the limited sample size, the gender proportion is highly imbalanced (4 males, 11 females). If the data collection period was longer, we might be able to recruit more participants and obtain a more representative, unbiased sample and a larger sample size. In addition, there are several outliers in our data that might distort our findings. The standard deviation of the auditory group is higher than that of the visual group, showing that the performances in the auditory group are relatively bipolar. There may be several reasons accounting for the huge difference in the auditory group for example, participants may not fully understand the article; participants may not be paying attention to the details; participants may be stressed out or bored when they take the test. Last but not least, since we applied between-subjects experimental design in our study, individual differences among participants may be the
11 Effects 11 confounding variable of our study. We suggest that future researchers can make the following modifications: reminding participants that they will be tested on the article contents and suggest them to pay attention on the article; also, researchers can set time restrictions on the reading time for the visual group in order to reduce the possibility that the participants read the article for twice; in addition, researchers can test one participant at a time, so that the influence from outside factors such as peer pressure, can be eliminated. Although the present findings suggest that visual learning method is more effective in helping college students to retain information than auditory learning method, our understanding of the relationship between learning method and retention is far from complete. For example, whether the use of visual aids, such as PowerPoint and pictures can help students to retain memory is still uncertain. Furthermore, it is interesting to explore whether gender difference has an effect on retention under any kind of learning method. Last but not least, future research may also look into the effects of combining visual and auditory learning method and compare its effectiveness with other learning methods, for instance, problem-based learning (Marklin & Hancock, 2010) and kinesthetic learning method.
12 Effects 12 Reference D'Arcangelo, M. (2000). How Does the Brain Develop? A Conversation with Steven Petersen. Educational Leadership, 58, 68. Hayes, D. S., & Birnbaum, D. W. (1980). Preschoolers' retention of televised events: Is a picture worth a thousand words?. Developmental Psychology, 16, Kellogg, R. T. (2001). Presentation modality and mode of recall in verbal false memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 27, Marklin Reynolds, J., & Hancock, D. R. (2010). Problem-based learning in a higher education environmental biotechnology course. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 47, Pezdek, K., & Stevens, E. (1984). Children's memory for auditory and visual information on television. Developmental Psychology, 20, Pierce, B. H., & Gallo, D. A. (2011). Encoding modality can affect memory accuracy via retrieval orientation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, Pinel, J. P. (2006). Biopsychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. Salomon, G. (1979). Media and symbol systems as related to cognition and learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 71, Smith, R. E., & Hunt, R. R. (1998). Presentation modality affects false memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 5, Szalavitz, M. (2011, May 9). How fear changes what we hear. TIME, Retrieved from
13 Effects 13 Thomas, M. C., & Johnson, M. H. (2008). New Advances in Understanding Sensitive Periods in Brain Development. Current Directions in Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 17, 1-5.