How Seductive Details Do Their Damage

I have been doing my homework on using images for learning and found this great 1997 paper by Harp and Mayer: How Seductive Details Do Their Damage. It describes the effects of adding seductive dramatic and emotional images and text to your explanations.

Screenshot 2019-06-17 at 12.37.49
Adapted from: How Seductive Details Do Their Damage: A Theory of Cognitive Interest in Science Learning: Harp and Mayer (1997)

The answer is, better if you don’t.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. Many textbooks love adding seductive details. My O-Level textbooks don’t.

P.P.S. Does this have an impact on how we use ‘hinterland’ in our lessons? (see Adam Boxer’s excellent post here). I think hinterland is really important, but be aware that unless we’re careful, learners may remember the hinterland and forget the core.


  1. Completely agree with this, Ben. There is a massive danger in hinterland and stories etc. Whenever I use them I make it explicit to students that I don’t need them to remember it, but it’s important and part of the story of science. When I get onto the Core, teaching methods completely change and any additional/extraneous/distracting information (even jokes/banter) are utterly excised. In subsequent lessons, I will invariably return to Core as retrieval, but rarely to hinterland. That’s how I try to balance it!


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