ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (5): 540-555.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00540

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Cueing effect in multimedia learning: A meta-analysis

XIE Heping1; WANG Fuxing1; ZHOU Zongkui1; WU Peng2   

  1. (1 Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior, Ministry of Education; School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China) (2 School of Education, Hubei University, Wuhan 430415, China)
  • Received:2014-07-21 Published:2016-05-25 Online:2016-05-25
  • Contact: WANG Fuxing, E-mail:


Cueing is an important instructional design technique to improve learning performance in multimedia learning. Recently, researchers focus on whether cueing could guide learners’ attention or facilitate learning outcomes. However, there is still no consistent conclusion about cueing effect of guiding attention, organization and integration in multimedia learning. In this study, we conducted a meta-analysis to investigate the effects of cueing on learning performance (e.g. retention and transfer test), attention guiding (e.g. fixation time and fixation count of cued areas), and moderating factors (e.g. physical and spatial-temporal cues, declarative and procedural knowledge, dynamic and static presentation, and subjects of learning materials). We used key words (e.g. cue, cueing, signaling, attention guidance, multimedia learning, animation, eye tracking, eye movement) to search literatures in database and got 43 related empirical studies. Forty-four independent effect sizes (3910 participants) were included in retention tests-related meta-analysis while 41 independent effect sizes (3906 participants) were included in transfer tests-related meta-analysis. Fourteen independent effect sizes (938 participants) were included in fixation-time-related meta-analysis while eleven independent effect sizes (816 participants) were included in fixation-count-related meta-analysis to test the attention-guiding effect of cueing. According to the characteristics of studies about cueing effect, we reasonably chose random-effects model as meta-analysis model. CMA2.0 was used to test the independent effect sizes. Finally, the impact of publication bias was tested to guarantee a more convincing conclusion. The results showed that cueing could significantly improve learning outcomes of retention test (g = 0.53, 95% CI = [0.36, 0.69]) as well as transfer test (g = 0.36, 95% CI = [0.23, 0.49]). At the same time, learners’ fixation time (g = 0.50, 95% CI = [0.30, 0.71]) and fixation count (g = 0.70, 95% CI = [0.43, 0.97]) of cueing areas attracted much more attention than uncued areas. This result supported the attention guiding hypothesis of cueing in multimedia learning. Moderator analyses indicated that cueing effect in learning outcomes was mainly moderated by types of cueing, dynamism of materials, subjects of materials and types of knowledge. Specifically, cueing resulted in higher retention and transfer scores in conditions of static materials and declarative knowledge rather than dynamic materials and procedural knowledge. Compared with the materials in liberal arts, cueing effect in retention test was weaker than that in science or engineering. In addition, spatial-temporal cues performed much better than physical cues in transfer test. However, in regard to attention-guiding, cueing effect was mainly moderated by cueing types itself. Fixation time was longer and fixation count was more in the condition of physical cues than spatial-temporal cues. The observed strong cueing effect suggested that presenting cues rationally can indeed improve learners’ memorization and comprehension of knowledge as well as distribution of attention. Physical and spatial-temporal cues, declarative and procedural knowledge, dynamic and static presentation, and subjects of learning materials may act as important moderate variables in cueing effect in multimedia learning. The meta-analysis of moderator factors supported the boundary hypothesis of multimedia learning principles (Mayer, 2010). Limitations and future research were also discussed in this study.

Key words: cueing effect, learning outcome, attention-guiding, boundary condition, multimedia learning, meta-analysis