One of the most important, difficult and common decisions that designers of learning make is whether to add interesting text, sounds, or visuals to learning Learning Design material.

This is a decision about Learning Design and The Art of Seduction. We want to arouse interest,curiosity, engagement but it’s important to know when these elements seduce learners and when they become a distraction.

The first step in our seduction process is arousal. We can arouse interest in our learning solutions in 3 ways mentally, emotionally and physically.





Cognitive Arousal

Cognitive arousal is about mental stimulation and application. A great state to be in, here we are exploring, learning and discovering interesting things. We create this aroused state by generating curiosity, novelty and interest.

A note of caution some people are more easily aroused than others.When aroused,people become focused on learning but you may notice that experts are more likely to display and defend their pre-existing ideas and knowledge.

Affective Arousal

Affective, or emotional, arousal happens when we are emotionally charged up and feel passionate about something. We may be angry, excited, scared, joyful or feeling the stimulation of any other emotion.We create affective arousal in a variety of ways using stories, video and if you are fortunate to access a proficient developer who can create Pedagogical Agents or animated life-like characters who can convey both verbal cues tone of voice, choice of words and nonverbal cues facial expression, direction of gaze,posture,and dress.

Physical Arousal

Physical arousal often occurs in situations that present us with opportunity to manage challenging behaviours. When we are in this state our bodies are in a heightened sense of arousal,

We have deeply programmed responses to physical threats which create arousal and action without thought The fight or flight response The fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal) is an example of this.

The Impact of Avatars

An avatar is considered to have higher social presence than other online mediated media because avatars provide emotional context, which can lead to affective arousal

In 2 studies learners experiencing a course with an avatar generated 24-48% increase in solutions to problems

In a third study students achieved 30% more word solutions to problems when an avatar was used instead of text and graphics alone

Beware The Anti Climax

It’s so easy to arrive at a disappointing end to an impressive series of events. It takes just one developer to create an anti climax by not realising how carefully the art of seduction has been thought through and failing to embrace it with inappropriate misleading, or irrelevant content.

In multimedia learning, seductive detail is usually called seductive augmentation the term seductive augmentation refers to text graphics,narratives, voice, and animation, with the purpose of arousing a learner’s interest

A wonderful piece of research provided by Will Thalheimer helps us to understand the impact of seductive augmentation on learning recall and retention:

  • When adding additional elements to content that has been designed to describe or explain something there was an average reduction in recall of 47%

  • When adding photos/illustrations alone to content that has been designed to describe or explain something. There was an average reduction of 42% for recall and 34% for transfer

  • When adding photos/illustrations and printed seductive details there was an average reduction of 65% for recall, 56% for transfer

  • When adding visuals or printed or narrated seductive details to multimedia narrated animations Narrated Seductive Details to Multimedia Narrated Animations – 4 of 6 comparisons showed a seductive augmentation effect for recall of main ideas. 6 of 6 showed an effect for problem-solving transfer. Average reduction is 19% for recall, 33% for transfer

To summarise……When learners are faced with seductive augmentations, they seem to have difficulty creating the memory structures they would need for longer retention

What is interesting is that the seductive augmentation effect does not occur when printed seductive details were added to to Narrative Biographical Text 6 of 6 comparisons showed no seductive augmentation effect.

Factors that are beneficial to learning

As a blended learning designer I am aware that arousal for cognitive tasks must be kept low this is because you need the learners’ full attention on the subject matter but that’s not to say the learning that is presented should be bland.items such as labelled illustrations or questions added to text helps learners with both recall and problem solving transfer tasks.

It’s not any augmentation that will hurt learning. It is only those that divert the learners’ cognitive processing away from the information that should be learned.

Research and Credits
Thalheimer, W. (2004, November). Bells, whistles, neon, and purple prose: When interesting words, sounds, and visuals hurt learning and performance—a review of the seductive-augmentation research. Retrieved January 02 2017, from augmentations.htm