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Although convergent research demonstrates that well-designed graphics can facilitate readers’ understanding of text, there are select situations where graphics have been shown to have no effect on learners’ overall text comprehension. Therefore, the current meta-analytic study examined 39 experimental studies published between 1985 and 2018 measuring graphics’ effects on readers’ comprehension. We first quantified the overall effect on reading comprehension. Then, we considered interactions with learners’ characteristics, graphic types, and assessment formats. Our analysis revealed that the inclusion of graphics had a moderate overall positive effect (Hedges’s g = 0.39) on students’ reading comprehension, regardless of grade level. Regarding graphic type, we did not find a significant difference among pictures, pictorial diagrams, and flow diagrams. Only when compared to mixed graphics, pictures had a greater effect on comprehension. Additionally, compared with true and false assessments, graphics differentially benefited students’ comprehension on open-ended comprehension assessments and mixed format assessments. Implications for future research are presented.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License