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Older readers can be distracted by embellishing graphics in text

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In most research on graphics in text students learn the content for a test (e.g., Mayer, 2002). The present study examined whether one of the principles from that literature, namely the deleterious effect of extraneous graphic information, would apply to adults who were consulting a leaflet to answer questions. The study used a mixed factorial design with 48 participants from three age bands (young-adult, young-old, old-old). Participants used two leaflets to answer questions, one without graphics and the other with either extraneous embellishing or supportive explanatory graphics. Relative to leaflets without graphics, the old-old participants were significantly slower finding information when leaflets contained embellishing but not explanatory graphics. The graphics had no effect on the other age groups. These findings suggest that either the reading task or the thematic relevance of the extraneous graphics may limit their negative effects for most adults but that negative effects recur for older readers.

Keywords: Distraction; Graphics; Older adults; Reading; Text

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09541440802155627

Affiliations: School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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