Cracking a joke during a lesson can lighten the mood, draw the learners’ attention, but can distract from the actual learning experience. Terming such diversions as seductive details, a new study has found that such information, while interesting, is merely distracting and can prove detrimental to learning.
The meta-analysis involved 58 studies and over 7,500 students. Primarily, the results showed that students who learned the seductive details performed comparatively worse than the students who learned without such distractions. Furthermore, the researchers found that if such diversions are placed next to important diagrams or were a static presence throughout the lesson.
“If you have an irrelevant piece of information, and it is something that is interesting, students tend to perform worse,” said Kripa Sundar, the lead author on the paper that is based on her dissertation from WSU’s College of Education. “There are multiple hypotheses on why that happens, but the simplest is that students’ attention is now diverted toward that irrelevant information, and they’re spending too much time trying to understand what that seductive detail is instead of the content matter.”
Seductive details also proved more detrimental in paper formats, as compared to digital media. The results of this study align with the coherence principle, which recommends that lessons are devoid of any unnecessary information and all important information should be placed together.
The paper has been published in the Educational Psychology Review journal.