Discipline-Based Education Research Group


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DBER Group Discussion on 2013‐10‐03


Copyright (c) 2013 Michael Dodd


One of the hallmarks of human cognition is that we have a limited number of cognitive resources available and successful performance in the environment requires an appropriate number of these resources to be directed towards one's primary task. As such, it is unsurprising that when attention is divided between two tasks simultaneously, performance on each task suffers relative to if each task was done in isolation. At the same time, however, it has also been shown that when individuals process information in multiple ways (e.g. across more than one modality) that performance is enhanced. In the present talk I will discuss two brief papers examining whether the requirement to actively point to to‐be‐remembered visual information (e.g. remember the spatial locations of items in an array) is helpful or hurtful to memory. On the one hand, pointing to items should lead to a motor trace in memory that could facilitate and compliment the visual trace. On the other hand, the requirement to actively point to something you are trying to visually memorize could impair memory by reducing the number of cognitive resources available for memorization. Pointing turns out to have both beneficial and detrimental effects dependent on a variety of factors. Ramifications for our understanding of multimodal processing will be discussed, as will the potential benefit of these findings for educational settings.