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Psychophysiology. 2011 Mar;48(3):323-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2010.01069.x. Epub 2010 Aug 16.

Effects of visual and verbal presentation on cognitive load in vigilance, memory, and arithmetic tasks.

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Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.


Degree of pupil dilation has been shown to be a valid and reliable measure of cognitive load, but the effect of aural versus visual task presentation on pupil dilation is unknown. To evaluate effects of presentation mode, pupil dilation was measured in three tasks spanning a range of cognitive activities: mental multiplication, digit sequence recall, and vigilance. Stimuli were presented both aurally and visually, controlling for all known visual influences on pupil diameter. The patterns of dilation were similar for both aural and visual presentation for all three tasks, but the magnitudes of pupil response were greater for aural presentation. Accuracy was higher for visual presentation for mental arithmetic and digit recall. The findings can be accounted for in terms of dual codes in working memory and suggest that cognitive load is lower for visual than for aural presentation.

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