Modality effect: what it is and how it explains memorization

If we are talking about the modality effect, it is very likely that few people know what we are referring to. On the other hand, if we were to ask which is easier to remember, 1 paragraph of text or an image that someone describes orally, it is very likely that people would answer the second option.

The modality effect is a phenomenon that occurs when the information presented involves two types of stimulation pathways, influencing their ability to remember. This phenomenon has its importance in the field of education, an aspect that we will explain in this article.

    Modality effect: what is it exactly?

    In experimental psychology, the modality effect is a phenomenon that occurs when, depending on how certain information is presented, it is best to remember it. Essentially, it is about remembering information better when it is presented in the form of an image and, in turn, is described orally, as opposed to whether the image itself is presented. but accompanied by a written text.

    This phenomenon usually occurs in situations where a certain content needs to be learned, i.e. it is a very recurrent effect in educational and student contextss.

    For example, depending on the model behind this effect, if a student is preparing for exams with pictures and says aloud explanations of what he is examining or simply says what he is observing, it is more likely that during the review, remember more content than if you just look at those same pictures and mentally read the accompanying text.

    Psychological models that explain it

    One of the models used to explain this phenomenon is that of Baddeley and Hitch’s cognitive load theory. According to this theory, the modality effect would occur due to the very characteristics of working memory. This type of memory, according to Baddeley’s model, is made up of two systems that have limited capacity: the phonological loop and the visuospatial agenda.

    The phonological loop, according to the model of Baddeley and Hitch, would be responsible for processing the information that is given in an auditory way. On the other hand, the visuospatial agenda is responsible for processing visual information, such as images, and spatial information, such as the location of a given object.

    This multicomponent model indicates that auditory and visuospatial information is processed separately in these two systems. Therefore, only visuospatial learning (for example, reading or viewing images) is more likely to overload the system in charge of this type of information (the phonological loop).

    On the other hand, if the information comes in two ways, visuospatial and auditory, the two systems will share approximately the same cognitive load, which will make both systems less overloaded in capacity and make learning more viable.

    The modality effect would occur when one of the systems, because it is the only one making the effort during learning, does not have enough capacity to cope with the information to be learned, compared to the moment where these are given in such a way that it involves the involvement of two systems.

      The classic effect

      The classic modality effect was observed by seeing how people were able to remember words that were presented verbally or orally. Regardless of whether the subject then had to remember the words in the same order in which he had read or heard them, or whether he had to remember them at random, the modality effect occurred.

      The modality effect it is closely related to two other memory-related effects. On the one hand, we have the effect of recency, that is, that the last words or last information of a set are easier to remember than the previous ones. The other effect, the suffix effect, is that if in a list of elements one is given with another modality, it is best to remember that.

        Its importance in the field of education

        Once you see what this effect is and the patterns that attempt to explain it, you can take some notes and relate them to the study.

        Since the information presented simultaneously visually and audibly seems to be remembered more easily than that which is simply read or “learned” by purely visual means, it is necessary to mention some useful aspects in the educational field, in addition to giving some advice. on how content should be delivered in the classroom to reinforce meaningful learning.

        First, the narrated explanation of a certain subject is almost more important than the images that can be presented of the same; it is something that can be used to motivate teachers in their explanations. The oral explanation given by the teacher in class, as long as she speaks fluently and does not abuse the text written on the slides or in the book, allows a better assimilation of information in the minds of their students.

        This is particularly important in the university setting. Despite the height of this type of education, it is very common for teachers to simply read slides or even, when they don’t have time, to tell students to read X chapters of a book which in as a rule, is usually really boring and hard to digest. . This means that, if the academic content is already difficult, its degree of difficulty is increased by the boredom of the whole educational process in this area.

        Teachers should make an effort to ensure that presentations are not full of slidesBut turn them into pictures appropriately related to the content explained. Explaining them orally emphasizes what needs to be learned and allows students to remember when the exam ended or even when they are due for work.

        For the part that involves the students, it would not be bad if once at home or at the library, they tackle more in depth the content that has been explained to them in class, looking for documentaries related to what they have to do. learn. Typically, this type of multimedia entertainment does not contain long paragraphs of boring text, but consists of videos and images accompanied by the voice of the narrator, an ideal strategy as we have seen throughout this article. .

        Other ways to ensure that you gain the knowledge are, first of all, to turn the content of the book or information source into an outline and, orally, to make an explanation of that same content to see if these contents have been acquired.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Beaman, CP and Morton, J. (2000). The distinct but related origins of the recency effect and the modality effect in free memory. Cognition 77, B59-B65.
        • Conway, MA and Gathercole, SE (1987). Modality and long-term memory. Journal of Memory and Language 26, 341-361.
        • Gardiner, JM (1983). On recency and ecological memory. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B302, 267-282.
        • Glenberg, AM and Swanson, NG (1986). A theory of the temporal specificity of recent and modal effects Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 12, 3-15.
        • Kellogg, RT (2001). Modality of presentation and manner of remembering in a false verbal memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 27, 913-919

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