How Visual Displays Affect Cognitive Processing

Matthew T. McCrudden, David N. Rapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We regularly consult and construct visual displays that are intended to communicate important information. The power of these displays and the instructional messages we attempt to comprehend when using them emerge from the information included in the display and by their spatial arrangement. In this article, we identify common types of visual displays and the kinds of inferences that each type of display is designed to promote. In particular, we outline different types of semantic and pictorial displays. Then, we describe four main ways in which visual displays can affect cognitive processing including selection, organization, integration, and processing efficiency and how semantic and pictorial displays support these types of processing. We conclude with seven recommendations for designing visual displays and possible directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-639
Number of pages17
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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