The power of pictures has been recognized in educational psychology for a long time. According to Mayer, “People can learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone.” (Mayer, R. E.: Page 1) Mayer defines multimedia, multimedia learning and multimedia instruction as follows:
Multimedia – Presenting words (such as printed text or spoken text) and pictures (such as illustrations, photos, animation, or video).
Multimedia Learning – Building mental representations from words and pictures.
Multimedia Instruction – Presenting words and pictures that are intended to promote learning.
Drawing on the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, Mayer’s model of meaningful learning points out that “in multimedia learning the learner engages in three important cognitive processes”which include selecting, organizing, and integrating. Selecting “is applied to incoming verbal information to yield a text base and is applied to incoming visual information to yield an image base,” organizing “is applied to the word base to create a verbally-based model of the to-be-explained system and is applied to the image base to create a visually-based model of the to-be-explained system,” and integrating “occurs when the learner builds connections between corresponding events (or states or parts) in the verbally-based model and the visually-based model.” (Mayer & Moreno: page 2, para 2)
Infographics are a form of multimedia that can be created to enhance the comprehension of information. When it comes to information-heavy situations, infographics could be used effectively to convey information through visuals, thereby reducing information overload.
In his article titled "The Power of Pictures', Ryan Tracey points out Mayer's 1996 research where he "and several of his colleagues from the University of California, Santa Barbara studied the effects of a multimedia summary (a sequence of annotated illustrations depicting the steps in a process) on learning how lightning is formed. Through a series of experiments, the researchers found that the students who read a multimedia summary on its own recalled the key explanative information and solved transfer problems as well as or better than the students who read the multimedia summary accompanied by a 600-word passage. Both groups of students performed as well as or better than the students who read the text passage on its own." (Tracey, 2009)
Ryan says he "considers these results important because, not only do they support the idea of pictures enhancing learning, but they also suggest that an infographic can achieve similar learning outcomes whether or not it is accompanied by a relatively large amount of text. The researchers interpreted their results in terms of their 'cognitive theory of multimedia learning', which draws heavily from cognitive load theory. They proposed that lengthy verbal explanations may in fact distract the learner with unnecessary information, which adversely affects their cognitive processing and thus their learning. In contrast, a concise infographic provides only the important information. This reduces the cognitive load, making it easier to process and to 'learn'." (Tracey, 2009)
Ryan Tracey is the E-Learning Manager at a well-known financial services organization in Australia, an Advisory Board Member for eLearn Magazine, and a Review Panelist for the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT). He has worked in corporate e-learning for over a decade, following several years in the higher education market. He holds a Master’s degree in Learning Sciences and Technology from the University of Sydney, is a regular contributor to industry magazines, and has won various training awards. (Tracey, 2008)