Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Bruce D. Homer

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Instructional Media Design


alcoholic, chemistry, cognitive load, executive function, simulation, stroop


The present study examines the design of visually complex science simulations. Building upon an earlier study by Homer and Plass (2014), the current research determines under which circumstances adult learners, and alcoholics in recovery, would perform better from while learning with different levels of guidance. It was predicted that alcoholic adults in recovery would have impaired Executive Function (EF) as compared to controls selected from the general population and that EF would affect learning. An experiment investigated whether levels of EF predict learning from simulations that offered higher or lower levels of instructional guidance. Participants were 76 adults, half of which were alcoholics in recovery. They were randomly assigned to a treatment condition that taught about the Ideal Gas Laws from either a simulation that allowed them to freely explore the controls or one that used guided animation.

Analyses of variance revealed that the control group scored significantly better than the experimental group in EF on tests of processing speed (Stroop S). The experimental group performed slightly better than controls on tests of interference (Stroop I) and scored better on the Stroop (I) as their length of sobriety increased, but there was no significant difference on either. Age had a significant effect on the results of the Stroop. Both groups scored worse with age on the speed tests, but better with age on the interference test. Using a stepwise linear regression analysis it was shown that the best predictor of performance on both tests of comprehension and transfer was the card rotation test (ETS S-1). There was no significant difference between groups on this measure. Results suggest that after a significant time away from a drink there is no difference in learning capabilities between recovering alcoholics and controls when level of education is controlled.