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The Signaling Effect


The signaling effect presents the increase in learning outcomes due to guiding and promotion of attention to relevant information. Signals are based on natural attention attractors like movement, contrast or sound. In multimedia this effect can also be achieved through various methods like1):

  1. enumeration, → arrows, underlining,
  2. bold text, italic text, coloring,
  3. summaries or overviews.


Examples of signaling implementation in practice:

  • preview summary paragraph2)
  • section headings3)
  • labels color change synchronized with a spoken explanation4)5)
  • step-by-step presentation of diagram elements synchronized with a spoken explanation6)
  • text underlining7)
  • text capitalization8)

Research status

A recent research9) has confirmed and attempted to explain the signaling effect using recorded eye movements data of the experiment participants. Some of the conclusions of this and similar studies concerning the signaling effect are:

  • Signaling can guide attention to relevant information, which reduces cognitive resources normally assigned for search of information10)
  • Eye-tracking studies confirmed that signaling results in more attention devoted to relevant information11)
  • Some studies have found increase in retention tests performance, but not on transfer tests12), but others found positive effects of signaling on transfer tests, but not on retention tests13)14)
  • In cases when signaling is used, time for finding information is usually reduced, but duration of time spent watching/processing this information increases when compared to no signaling conditions
research_results/signaling_effect.txt · Last modified: 2012/01/12 11:42 (external edit)