Click versus drag: User-performed tasks and the enactment effect in an interactive multimedia environment

Ruth N. Schwartz, Jan L. Plass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does learner performance of specific tasks in an interactive multimedia environment affect learning outcomes? Within a multimedia environment, users may engage in a range of actions, or interactive tasks, from tapping a keyboard to executing large motor movements. To investigate the impact of particular performance tasks on learning, we first introduce an approach to classifying interactive multimedia tasks as enactive, iconic or symbolic. We then describe a study in which university students (N = 112) used a computer program that presented a series of action phrases in 4 different conditions, each condition requiring performance of a different task: listen (audio only), look (audio with static graphic), click (audio with animation triggered by a click), or drag (audio with click-and-drag graphic). Participants were tested on free recall and recognition of phrases immediately after treatment and again after 3 weeks. At immediate testing, recall was best for drag (iconic) items, followed by click (symbolic), look, and listen items, in that order, with significant differences between each pair of conditions. For immediate recognition, as well as for delayed free recall and delayed recognition, mean scores followed the same pattern, with some variations in significance. Results support our proposed classification of interactive behaviors, extend previous findings on the enactment effect into a computer environment, and suggest the importance of considering the design of interactive tasks in the development of multimedia learning materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-255
Number of pages14
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Embodiment
  • Enactment effect
  • Interactivity
  • Multimedia
  • User-performed tasks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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