Stereoscopy in Static Scientific Imagery in an Informal Education Setting: Does It Matter?
Stereoscopic technology (3D) is rapidly becoming ubiquitous across research, entertainment and informal educational settings. Children of today may grow up never knowing a time when movies, television and video games were not available stereoscopically. Despite this rapid expansion, the field’s understanding of the impact of stereoscopic visualizations on learning is rather limited. Much of the excitement of stereoscopic technology could be due to a novelty effect, which will wear off over time. This study controlled for the novelty factor using a variety of techniques. On the floor of an urban science center, 261 children were shown 12 photographs and visualizations of highly spatial scientific objects and scenes. The images were randomly shown in either traditional (2D) format or in stereoscopic format. The children were asked two questions of each image—one about a spatial property of the image and one about a real-world application of that property. At the end of the test, the child was asked to draw from memory the last image they saw. Results showed no overall significant difference in response to the questions associated with 2D or 3D images. However, children who saw the final slide only in 3D drew more complex representations of the slide than those who did not. Results are discussed through the lenses of cognitive load theory and the effect of novelty on engagement.