Attention-Getting Devices

Attention-Getting Devices

Video production techniques used to gain viewer attention have had a weaker effect on learning than might be expected from the effort devoted to these techniques. Although attracting and holding a viewer’s attention is a necessary prerequisite, it is more an opportunity than a guarantee that learning will occur. 


Rapid cutting in a video presentation acts to increase viewer attention. However, sustained rapid cutting tends to confuse viewers by preventing them from processing the information as it is presented. Eye-movement studies have shown that a rapid series of fast moving images on a screen causes the viewer to look toward the center of the screen without focusing on any particular object – a phenomenon called surrender (Koumi, 2006). 

Sound Effects

The use of sound effects in video has been inconsistent in its effect on learning, despite the ability to arouse and sustain interest in a presentation. Noticeable changes in audio levels such as the introduction of different voices, laughter, music, and background noise has been shown to increase viewer interest. Sound effects are associated with increased attention to a presentation in children (Calvert & Scott, 1989). However, they have no effect on learning when used merely as a diversion or as background noise to add realism to narrative. 


Music has generally shown little positive effect on the instructional effectiveness of a video (Morris, 1984). However, a few studies have shown a positive effect among young children. Some uses of music may decrease learning by distracting the viewer from the content of the presentation. Researchers concluded that fast-paced music impeded learning whereas slow-paced music had no effect on attention or learning (Bates, 2005). 

Boltz, Schulkind, and Kantra (1991) found an effect for background music on the recall and recognition of elements of short dramatic video clips. By varying the “mood” of the music preceding or accompanying the taped broadcast episodes, they were able to increase the recall of the story plot. When the mood of the background music accompanying the episode’s outcome was consistent with the outcome (tragic, funny, surprising, etc.) the viewers’ recall of the episode’s plot was significantly better than when the music was inconsistent with the outcome or when there was no accompanying music. 


Bates, T. (2005) Technology, e-learning, and distance education. Routledge. 

Boltz, M., Schulkind, M., & Kantra, S. (1991). Effects of background music on the remembering of filmed events. Memory and Cognition, 19, 593-606.

Calvert, S. L., & Scott, M. C. (1989). Sound effects for children’s temporal integration of fast-paced television content. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 33, 233-246.

Koumi, J. (2006). Designing video and multimedia for open and flexible learning. Routledge.

Morris, J. D. (1984). The Florida study: Improving achievement through the use of more dynamics in TV production. T.H.E. Journal, 12, 104-107.

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