Paik and Schraw on the Illusion of Understanding

Paik and Schraw seek to explain how animations in multimedia presentations gives the viewer the illusion of understanding what is being presented. The authors begin by splitting animations into two different categories directive and representational. Directive animation guides the viewer to a particular area or component of an image while representational animation illustrates the content of the presentation. Directive animation has been shown to positively effect the viewer by helping them integrate aural and visual components while representational animation has both positive and negative effects on learning. Paik and Schraw state that adding animations to presentations can cause viewers to overestimate how easy it is to comprehend the material and invest less effort into the learning process. The authors continue on to explain the judgement of difficulty (JOD), judgement of comprehension (JOC), and the disengagement assertions. The JOD assertion states that adding representational animations that directly illustrate the system’s behavior into multimedia presentations causes viewers to perceive the presentation as easier to learn. The JOC assertion states that representational animations in presentations causes learners to inflate their judgement of how well they comprehend the dynamics of a system. The disengagement assertion states that adding representational animations in presentations cause viewers to reduce their cognitive engagement. Paik and Schraw conducted an experiment to test the claims presented in the illusion of understanding (IU) model. They conclude by stating the results of their experiment: learning is impeded when animation contributes to optimistic IU while learning is enhanced when animation contributes to pessimistic IU. The authors cannot find a causal explanation for why animation effects cognitive monitoring.

The YouTube video below is a representation of a Rube Goldberg mechanism. The animation has no sound and offers no explanation for what is being portrayed in the animation. If this video was being used to educate someone (how to effectively build a Rube Goldberg mechanism, how different objects behave in the mechanism) it would fool the user into assuming they understood what is happening in the animation. They would have no real idea of the different forces at work, why each piece is placed in each particular place, or if the order of the components matter. The viewer would assume the mechanism is easy to build while, in practice, these mechanisms take a simple understanding of physics and a lot of fine tuning to position the elements in just the right positions.

Question: Can “poor” representational animations be combined with another form of education to increase the understanding of the material?

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