Effects of finger and mouse pointing on learning from online split-attention examples

Shirong Zhang*, Bjorn B. de Koning, Fred Paas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Self-management of cognitive load is a recent development in cognitive load theory. Finger pointing has been shown to be a potential self-management strategy to support learning from spatially separated, but mutually referring text and pictures (i.e., split-attention examples). Aims: The present study aimed to extend the prior research on the pointing strategy and investigated the effects of finger pointing on learning from online split-attention examples. Moreover, we examined an alternative pointing strategy using the computer mouse, and a combination of finger pointing and computer-mouse pointing. Sample: One-hundred and forty-five university students participated in the present study. Method: All participants studied an online split-attention example about the human nervous system and were randomly allocated to one of four conditions: (1) pointing with the index finger, (2) pointing with the computer mouse, (3) pointing with the index finger and the computer mouse and (4) no pointing. Results: Results confirmed our main hypothesis, indicating that finger pointing led to higher retention performance than no pointing. However, the mouse pointing strategy and the combined finger and mouse pointing strategy did not show supportive effects. Conclusions: Finger pointing can be used as a simple and convenient self-management strategy in online learning environments. Mouse pointing may not be as effective as finger pointing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-304
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue numberS2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Paul Ginns, Gertjan Rop and Rolf Ploetzner for sharing the materials, and thank Juan Cristobal Castro‐Alonso for providing the online symmetry pattern task. This research was supported by the scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (201706360140).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society.

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