Practical Meaning and Educational Applications of Dual Coding Theory

Q. What is the practical meaning of dual coding theory?

Dual coding theory suggests that combining verbal and graphical material in learning (or just encouraging students to generate appropriate mental images) should increase the probability that words will activate corresponding images and vice-versa.

This also means that learning material will be easier to relate if it is less abstract.

”… concrete nouns are superior to abstract nouns in their capacity to elicit sensory images, and that imagery can mediate the formation of an associative connection between members of a pair.”

Pavio also addresses individual differences in tendency and capacity to use imagery: .

”Students who have trouble imaging , for example, may fail to remember passages of text that benefit from imaginal processing, may not understand geography or other spatial facts in a concrete way, and might do poorly at visualizing the steps in a geometric proof, spelling difficult words or even printing letters correctly.”


Common criticisms of dual coding theory suggest that there is no need for two representational systems, since both verbal and non-verbal stimuli are processed in working memory, turned to semantic elements or propositions and are stored in long-term memory. This assumption is sometimes also known as the single-coding theory.

Educational Applications Of Dual Coding Theory

The important practical aspect of the DCT developmental analysis is its stress on the early development of the nonverbal system as the foundation for later cognitive skills that include language as well.

The early development is based on sensorimotor experiences with concrete objects and events.

It follows that cognitive growth depends on the richness of the early nonverbal experiences, increasingly associated with the language experience necessary for the development of the verbal side of a complete dual-coding mind.

An important corollary is that cognitive growth will not be stimulated as effectively by a disproportionate early emphasis on language experience relative to nonverbal experience.

The early stage of the DCT analysis is consistent with general theoretical views and evidence on the effects of early experience on brain and behavioral development.

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