The effect of causal diagrams on text learning

Matthew T. McCrudden, Gregory Schraw, Stephen Lehman, Anne Poliquin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


We examined the effect of studying a causal diagram on comprehension of causal relationships from an expository science text. A causal diagram is a type of visual display that explicitly represents cause-effect relationships. In Experiment 1, readers between conditions did not differ with respect to memory for main ideas, but the readers who studied the causal diagram while reading the text understood better the five causal sequences in the text even when study time was controlled. Participants in Experiment 2 studied only the causal diagram or only the text. There were no differences in memory for main ideas or the causal sequences between these groups. Results indicate that causal diagrams are not merely redundant with text and that causal diagrams affect understanding of causal relationships in the absence of a text. These findings supported the causal explication hypothesis, which states that causal diagrams improve comprehension by explicitly representing the implicit causal structure of the text in a visual format.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-388
Number of pages22
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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