Inspecting a picture before reading affects attentional processing but not comprehension

Stephanie I. Wassenburg, Björn B. de Koning, Lisanne T. Bos, Menno van der Schoot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study investigated whether presenting a picture before reading can encourage situation-model construction. We compared two conditions (n = 30) which differed in whether a picture of the initial situation described in a narrative text was presented before reading (i.e. pictorial-support condition) or not (i.e. no-picture condition). Situation-model construction was measured using both process- and product-oriented measures. Eye-tracking data indicated online resource allocation to the different levels of text representation: surface, textbase, and situation model. Literal text questions and inference questions were used as an offline indication of textbase and situation-model processing, respectively. The results showed that a picture presented before reading led to a redistribution of processing resources during reading, evidenced by a shift from textbase to situation-model processing. This attentional shift did not translate into higher comprehension scores. The results were interpreted in line with multimedia learning theories suggesting pictures can serve as a mental scaffold for situation-model construction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • eye-tracking
  • pictorial support
  • Reading comprehension
  • resource allocation
  • situation model


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