Too many dull words exceed the limits of visual perception : the effects of clutter and colour on learning

Foulds, Olivia; (2020) Too many dull words exceed the limits of visual perception : the effects of clutter and colour on learning. In: IADIS International Conference on Cognition and Exploratory Learning in Digital Age 2020. IADIS, pp. 3-10. ISBN 978-989-8704-22-1

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When too much visual stimuli is present, the phenomenon of clutter is known to degrade an individual's perception across a variety of domains, ranging from completing search tasks incorrectly, to decreasing reading speed when letters are too close together. However, research is lacking as to whether the negative effects of clutter impact learning when too many words are visible at any one given time. Furthermore, colour has been implicated in affecting clutter. Thus, the present study created a recognition experiment whereby 42 participants had to learn target words that were presented in black or red font and positioned amongst no clutter, clutter words (distractor words surrounded the target), and clutter non-words (sequence of random letters surrounded the target). Results found that words learned in isolation were identified faster and significantly more accurately than words learned in both forms of clutter. Although red target words did not eliminate the negative effects of clutter, red words did show a trend towards higher accuracy of recognition compared to black words. These results would appear to be explained by existing clutter theories that state the limits of attentional resources and short-term memory cannot process excess visual stimuli. These findings have real-world implications for establishing optimal reading formats to improve learning.