Emotional design elements have recently been added to the research in cognitive load and multimedia learning (Um et al., 2012). One aspect of eliciting positive emotions is to use anthropomorphic design, which has been found to increase learning performance (Um et al., 2012; Plass et al., 2014; Park et al., 2015; Schneider et al., 2018). The current research aimed to investigate three design factors in three studies: anthropomorphism in verbal and visual design, single-frame or multi-frame illustrations, and realism of the anthropomorphic visual design. The first study confirmed that the anthropomorphic verbal and visual materials were perceived as anthropomorphic by the target population. In the second and third study, college students were tested on their learning performance, affective status, intrinsic motivation, metacognitive abilities, and cognitive load levels. The second study investigated whether learning from single-frame or multi-frame illustrations along with verbal presentation of information would impact learning performance, cognitive load, metacognition, affective and motivational experiences. The role of spatial ability was also considered. Results indicated no significant differences among the groups. However, higher spatial ability resulted in higher intrinsic motivation for individuals studying with single-frame but not multi-frame illustrations. Additionally, lower spatial ability led to higher metacognition. In the third study, realism (no anthropomorphism, low fidelity, and high fidelity) of the humanlike visual illustrations and anthropomorphic language were studied. College students' learning performances were measured by comprehension and transfer tests, and intrinsic motivation, affect, and cognitive load levels were measured by self-report measurements. Overall, it was found that the humanlike visual design and the degree of fidelity of the visual design did not impact learning performance, affective status, and motivation. However, the number of interesting details (seductive details) remembered about the anthropomorphic design elements mediated the relationship between the type of design and learning performance. Using anthropomorphic language along with realistic illustrations resulted in higher seductive details recall performance, which in turn, predicted higher learning performance on both transfer and comprehension tests. Results were discussed considering Cognitive Load Theory and Cognitive-Affective Theory of Learning with Media.


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Graduation Date





Sims, Valerie


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Human Factors Cognitive Psychology




CFE0009034; DP0026367





Release Date

May 2023

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)