Digital media are sensory-rich, multimodal, and often highly interactive. An extensive collection of theories and models within the field of media psychology assume the multimodal nature of media stimuli, yet there is current ambiguity as to the independent contributions of visual and auditory content to message complexity and to resource availability in the human processing system. In this article, we argue that explicating the concepts of perceptual and cognitive load can create progress toward a deeper understanding of modality-specific effects in media processing. In addition, we report findings from an experiment showing that perceptual load leads to modality-specific reductions in resource availability, whereas cognitive load leads to a modality-general reduction in resource availability. We conclude with a brief discussion regarding the critical importance of separating modality-specific forms of load in an increasingly multisensory media environment.
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- Media psychology
- Multimedia processing
- Perceptual load
- Resource availability