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Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Introduction: The inclusion of interesting but irrelevant details in instructional materials may interfere with recall and application of the core content. Although this seductive detail effect is well researched, recent research highlights factors that may influence the effect size.

Objectives: The current study discusses confounds and methodological issues in the study of seductive details and outlines strategies for over coming them. These practices were then applied in a study that examined the role of learning objectives on the seductive detail effect.

Met hods: Seductive details were selected on the basis of interest and importance level and matched forword count and reading level. The 3×2 between subjects design presented 132 undergraduate students with a lesson on plate tectonics; participants completed tests on both recall and transfer.

Results: Results did not reveal a consistent detrimental effect of high-interest details on core content recall and transfer. On the recall test, contrary to expectation, the seductive detail effect obtained only when objectives were provided. A similar pattern emerged on the transfer task.

Conclusion: These findings highlight the difficulty of consistently eliciting the seductive detail effect. We discuss outstanding issues that must be addressed in order to develop practical guidelines on the inclusion of seductive details in educational materials.

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©2021. The Authors. Brain and Behavior published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Brain and Behavior

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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