Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 721–734 | Cite as

Stereoscopy in Static Scientific Imagery in an Informal Education Setting: Does It Matter?

  • C. Aaron Price
  • H.-S. Lee
  • K. Malatesta


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.


Stereoscopy 3D Informal learning Spatial cognition Visualizations Science education 



This research was conducted in Living Laboratory® at the Museum of Science, Boston. The project was funded by National Science Foundation award DRL-1114645 and supported by the American Association of Variable Star Observers under the direction of Dr. Arne Henden. We thank Dr. Eric Chaisson, Dr. Janice Gobert, Dr. Maria Roussou, Dr. Holly A. Taylor and Ryan Wyatt for their advice on this project and manuscript. We also thank Justin Harris and Rachel Fyler.

Supplementary material

10956_2014_9500_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (267 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (JPEG 266 kb)
10956_2014_9500_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (1.4 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (JPEG 1400 kb)
10956_2014_9500_MOESM3_ESM.docx (49 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 48 kb)
10956_2014_9500_MOESM4_ESM.docx (46 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 46 kb)


  1. Aitsiselmi Y, Holliman NS (2009) Using mental rotation to evaluate the benefits of stereoscopic displays. In: IS&T/SPIE electronic imaging. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 72370Q–72370QGoogle Scholar
  2. Apley A, Streitburger K, Scala J (2008) Dinosaurs alive: film summative report submitted to Maryland Science Center. RMC Research Corporation, PortsmouthGoogle Scholar
  3. Barfield W, Rosenberg C (1995) Judgments of azimuth and elevation as a function of monoscopic and binocular depth cues using a perspective display. Human Factors J Human Factors Ergonom Soc 37(1):173–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bodner GM, Guay RB (1997) The Purdue visualization of rotations test. Chem Educ 2(4):1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bombeke K, Van Looy J, Szmalec A, Duyck W (2013) Leaving the third dimension: no measurable evidence for cognitive aftereffects of stereoscopic 3D movies. J Soc Inform Display 21(4):159–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown S (2013) From novelty to normal: 3DTV as special effect. Crit Stud Telev Int J Telev Stud 8(3):33–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bunzeck N, Düzel E (2006) Absolute coding of stimulus novelty in the human substantia nigra/VTA. Neuron 51(3):369–379Google Scholar
  8. Cid XC, Lopez RE (2010) The impact of stereo display on student understanding of phases of the moon. Astron Educ Rev 9(1):010105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cliburn D, Krantz J (2008) Towards an effective low-cost virtual reality display system for education. J Comput Sci Coll 23(3):147–153Google Scholar
  10. Cruz-Neira C, Sandi DJ, DeFanti TA (1993) Surround-screen projection-based virtual reality: the design and implementation of the CAVE. Commun ACM 35(6):64–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Winter JCF, Wieringa PA, Dankelman J, Mulder M, Van Paassen MM, De Groot S (2007) Driving simulator fidelity and training effectiveness. In: Proceedings of the 26th European annual conference on human decision making and manual control, Lyngby, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  12. Drascic D (1991) Skill acquisition and task performance in teleoperation using monoscopic and stereoscopic video remote viewing. In: Proceedings of the human factors and ergonomics society annual meeting, vol 35, No. 19. SAGE, pp 1367–1371Google Scholar
  13. Dukes P, Bruton D (2008) A Geowall with physics and astronomy applications. Phys Teach 46(3):180–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fluke CJ, Bourke PD (2005) Astronomy visualisation in reflection. The Planetarian 34:10–15Google Scholar
  15. Fraser J, Heimlich JE, Jacobsen J, Yocco V, Sickler J, Kisiel J, Stahl J (2012) Giant screen film and science learning in museums. Mus Manag Curatorship 27(2):179–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gurevitch L, Ross M (2013) Stereoscopic media: scholarship beyond booms and busts. Public 24(47):83–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hansen J, Barnett M, MaKinster J, Keating T (2004) The impact of three-dimensional computational modeling on student understanding of astronomical concepts: a quantitative analysis. Int J Sci Educ 26(11):1365–1575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holford DG, Kempa RF (1970) The effectiveness of stereoscopic viewing in the learning of spatial relationships in structural chemistry. J Res Sci Teach 7(3):265–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hsu J, Pizlo Z, Babbs CF, Chelberg DM, Delp EJ III (1994) Design of studies to test the effectiveness of stereo imaging truth or dare: is stereo viewing really better? In: IS&T/SPIE 1994 international symposium on electronic imaging: science and technology. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 211–222Google Scholar
  20. Isik-Ercan Z, Kim B, Nowak J (2012) Can 3D visualization assist in young children’s understanding of Sun–Earth–Moon system? Int J Knowl Soc Res 3(4):12–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Keebler JR (2011) Effects of 3D stereoscopy, visuospatial working memory, and perceptions of simulation experience on the memorization of confusable objects. Doctoral dissertation, University of Central Florida Orlando, FLGoogle Scholar
  22. Kennedy C (1936) The development and use of stereo photography for educational purposes. SMPTE Motion Imaging J 26(1):3–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kim WS, Ellis SR, Tyler ME, Hannaford B, Stark LW (1987) Quantitative evaluation of perspective and stereoscopic displays in three-axis manual tracking tasks. IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern 17(1):61–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kirschner PA, Ayres P, Chandler P (2011) Contemporary cognitive load theory research: the good, the bad and the ugly. Comput Hum Behav 27(1):99–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kooi FL, Toet A (2004) Visual comfort of binocular and 3D displays. Displays 25(2–3):99–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kozhevnikov M, Hegarty M, Mayer RE (2002) Revising the visualizer–verbalizer dimension: evidence for two types of visualizers. Cogn Instr 20(1):47–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lambooij M, Fortuin M, Heynderickx I, IJsselsteijn W (2009) Visual discomfort and visual fatigue of stereoscopic displays: a review. J Imaging Sci Technol 53(3):30201-1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lantz E (2011) Planetarium of the future. Curator Mus J 54(3):293–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. LaViola JJ Jr, Litwiller T (2011) Evaluating the benefits of 3d stereo in modern video games. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems. ACM, pp 2345–2354Google Scholar
  30. Lo WY, Tsai YP, Chen CW, Hung YP (2004) Stereoscopic kiosk for virtual museum. In: Proceedings of international computer symposium. Symposium conducted at the meeting of Ministry of Education, Republic of ChinaGoogle Scholar
  31. Lopez RE, Hamed K (2004) Student interpretations of 2-D and 3-D renderings of the substorm current wedge. J Atmos Solar Terr Phys 66(15):1509–1517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mayer RE (2005) Principles for reducing extraneous processing in multimedia learning: coherence, signaling, redundancy, spatial contiguity, and temporal contiguity principles. In: Mayer RE (ed) Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 183–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McIntire JP, Havig PR, Geiselman EE (2012) What is 3D good for? A review of human performance on stereoscopic 3D displays. In: SPIE defense, security, and sensing. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 83830X–83830XGoogle Scholar
  34. McIntire JP, Havig PR, Geiselman EE (2014) Stereoscopic 3D displays and human performance: a comprehensive review. Displays 35(1):18–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Michael WB, Guilford JP, Fruchter B, Zimmerman WS (1957) The description of spatial-visualization abilities. Educ Psychol Measur 17:185–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mowafy L, Thurman RA (1993) Training pilots to visualize large-scale spatial relationships in a stereoscopic display. In: IS&T/SPIE’s symposium on electronic imaging: science and technology. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 72–81Google Scholar
  37. Nataupsky M, Crittenden L (1988) Stereo 3-D and non-stereo presentations of a computer-generated pictorial primary flight display with pathway augmentationGoogle Scholar
  38. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2000) Into the eye of the storm. Photograph. Retrieved from
  39. National Research Council (2006) Learning to think spatially: GIS as a support system in the K-12 curriculum. The National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  40. Nemire K (1998) Enhancing cockpit design with an immersive virtual environment rapid prototyping and simulation system. In: Aerospace/defense sensing and controls. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 112–123Google Scholar
  41. Newcombe NS (2010) Picture this: increasing math and science learning by improving spatial thinking. Am Educ 34(2):29Google Scholar
  42. Okuyama F (1999) Evaluation of stereoscopic display with visual function and interview. In: Electronic Imaging’99. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 28–35Google Scholar
  43. Paas F, Tuovinen JE, Tabbers H, Van Gerven PW (2003) Cognitive load measurement as a means to advance cognitive load theory. Educ Psychol 38(1):63–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Patel M, White M, Walczak K, Sayd P (2003) Digitisation to presentation: building virtual museum exhibitions. In: Vision, video and graphics, Bath, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  45. Patterson R, Silzars A (2009) Immersive stereo displays, intuitive reasoning, and cognitive engineering. J Soc Inform Display 17(5):443–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pepper RL, Smith DC, Cole RE (1981) Stereo TV improves operator performance under degraded visibility conditions. Opt Eng 20(4):579–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pfautz JD (2001) Sampling artifacts in perspective and stereo displays. In: Photonics west 2001-electronic imaging. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 54–62Google Scholar
  48. Piaget J (1956) Child’s conception of space, vol 4. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  49. Pietschmann D, Liebold B, Valtin G, Ohler P (2013) Taking space literally: reconceptualizing the effects of stereoscopic representation on user experience. Italian Journal of Game Studies 2(2)Google Scholar
  50. Pölönen M, Järvenpää T, Bilcu B (2013) Stereoscopic 3D entertainment and its effect on viewing comfort: comparison of children and adults. Appl Ergon 44(1):151–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Price A, Lee HS (2010) The effect of two-dimensional and stereoscopic presentation on middle school students’ performance of spatial cognition tasks. J Sci Educ Technol 19(1):90–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rapp DN, Culpepper SA, Kirkby K, Morin P (2007) Fostering students’ comprehension of topographic maps. J Geosci Educ 55(1):5Google Scholar
  53. Reinhart WF (1991) Depth cueing for visual search and cursor positioning. In: Electronic Imaging’91, San Jose, CA. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 221–232Google Scholar
  54. Roussou M (2000) Immersive interactive virtual reality and informal education. In: Stephanidis C (ed) Proceedings of the ERCIM WG UI4ALL one-day joint workshop with i3 Spring Days 2000 on “Interactive Learning Environments for Children”, Athens, GreeceGoogle Scholar
  55. Shipley TF, Epstein R, Newcombe N (2014) Initiative 1: characterize spatial skills relevant to STEM and chart their development. Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center. Resource Document. Accessed 31 March 2014
  56. Sweller J (1988) Cognitive load during problem solving: effects on learning. Cogn Sci 12(2):257–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Takahashi G, Connolly P (2012) Impact of binocular vision on the perception of geometric shapes in spatial ability testing. In: 67th midyear meeting proceedings, Limerick, IrelandGoogle Scholar
  58. Trindade J, Fiolhais C, Almeida L (2002) Science learning in virtual environments: a descriptive study. British J Educ Technol 33(4):471–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Trotter D (2004) Stereoscopy: modernism and the ‘haptic’. Crit Q 46(4):38–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Van Beurden MHPH, IJsselsteijn WA, Juola JF (2012) Effectiveness of stereoscopic displays in medicine: a review. 3D Res 3(1):1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. van den Hoogen W, Feys P, Lamers I, Coninx K, Notelaers S, Kerkhofs L, IJsselsteijn W (2012) Visualizing the third dimension in virtual training environments for neurologically impaired persons: beneficial or disruptive? J Neuroeng Rehabil 9(1):73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vandenberg SG, Kuse AR (1978) Mental rotations, a group test of three-dimensional spatial visualization. Percept Mot Skills 47(2):599–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vendeland J, Regenbrecht H (2013) Is there any use in stereoscopic slide presentations? Accessed 31 March 2014
  64. Vogt F, Wagner AY (2012) Stereo pairs in astrophysics. Astrophys Space Sci 337(1):79–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wai J, Lubinski D, Benbow CP (2009) Spatial ability for STEM domains: aligning over 50 years of cumulative psychological knowledge solidifies its importance. J Educ Psychol 101(4):817CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wheatstone C (1852) XXXVI. Contributions to the physiology of vision.—Part the first. On the some remarkable, and hitherto unobserved, phenomena of binocular vision. Lond Edinb Dublin Philos Mag J Sci 3(18):241–267Google Scholar
  67. White J (2011) Bumble Bee. Photograph. Retrieved from
  68. Williams SP, Parrish RV (1990) New computational control techniques and increased understanding for stereo 3-D displays. In: SC-DL tentative. International Society for Optics and Photonics, pp 73–82Google Scholar
  69. Wu HK, Shah P (2004) Exploring visuospatial thinking in chemistry learning. Sci Educ 88(3):465–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Yim MYC, Cicchirillo VJ, Drumwright ME (2012) The impact of stereoscopic three-dimensional (3-D) advertising. J Advert 41(2):113–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum of Science and Industry, ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.University of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  3. 3.American Association of Variable Star ObserversCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations