The modality principle claims that animations are more effective with narration than with on-screen text. However, the cognitive mechanisms that explain the effect are not entirely clear yet. Two issues were investigated in the current study. Experiment 1 focused on the different channel assumption that narration and on-screen text tax working memory differently. Sixty participants studied an animation on the formation of lightning (Mayer & Moreno, 1998; Moreno & Mayer, 1999) with either narrated text or on-screen text. Afterwards, mental effort, retention and transfer were measured. Also, half the participants got a counting task that taxed the phonological loop in working memory. The hypothesis was that the counting task would affect learning in the narrated condition more than in the on-screen text condition. The results did not show such an interaction, with the loading task affecting both conditions equally. Surprisingly, no main effect of modality was found either. Nevertheless, the results do not support the different channel assumption as an explanation for the modality effect. The second experiment tested whether the modality effect could be the result of split attention in the on-screen text condition, aggrevated by a lack of time to integrate screen text and animation. Seventy participants studied the same animation as in Experiment 1, but this time both modality of text and speed of animation were varied. We expected the strongest modality effect in the fast conditions, and a less strong effect in the slow conditions. However, no differences were found on any of the dependent measures. The double failure to replicate the modality effect and the lack of evidence for the different channels explanation raises doubt on its theoretical rationale and limits its practical use as a design principle.

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Keywords Animation, Different channels assumption, Modality principle, Phonological loop
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Journal Zeitschrift fur Padagogische Psychologie
Tabbers, H.K, & van der Spoel, W. (2011). Where did the modality principle in multimedia learning go? a double replication failure that questions both theory and practical use. Zeitschrift fur Padagogische Psychologie, 25(4), 221–230. doi:10.1024/1010-0652/a000047