The Effect of Encoding Specificity on Learning in a Multimedia Environment


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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of encoding specificity on learning in a multimedia environment. Based upon the theory of encoding specificity there should be a relationship between the modality for which a learner encodes information into memory and the modality used to assess the learner's knowledge. Modality attributes for purposes of this study included visual (animation) and verbal information (narration and text).

Two-hundred and fifteen students viewed a computer animation on lighting formation which was presented in one of three different modalities (animation with narration, animation with text, text only). Following the instruction students were assessed in one of three modalities (animation with narration, animation with text, text only) on recall and transfer. A 3 Encoding/Study x 3 Retrieval/Test (animation with narration, animation with text, text only) full-factorial post-test only design was used to assess the effects of matched and mismatched encoding and retrieval modalities in a multimedia environment.

Encoding specificity suggests that there is an interaction between the conditions at encoding and retrieval such to say that the to-be-remembered item will not be as effective during retrieval unless the cue was specifically encoded at time of storage. Unfortunately, the present study did not find much to support the claim of encoding specificity based upon modality. The use of modality in both encoding and retrieval condition to support encoding specificity was found only in the AT-AT matched recall group versus the mismatched groups. Furthermore, significance was not found in any of the matched mismatched transfer conditions.



cognitive multimedia learning, context dependent learning, encoding specificity, multimedia learning