Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Experimental Psychology

Committee Chair

Art Graesser

Committee Member

Andrew Olney

Committee Member

Randy Floyd

Committee Member

Mark Conley


Confusion provides opportunities to learn at deeper levels. However, learners must put forth the necessary effort to resolve their confusion to convert this opportunity into actual learning gains. Learning occurs when learners engage in cognitive activities beneficial to learning (e.g., reflection, deliberation, problem solving) during the process of confusion resolution. Unfortunately, learners are not always able to resolve their confusion on their own. The inability to resolve confusion can be due to a lack of knowledge, motivation, or skills. The present dissertation explored methods to aid confusion resolution and ultimately promote learning through a multi-pronged approach. First, a survey revealed that learners prefer more information and feedback when confused and that they preferred different interventions for confusion compared to boredom and frustration. Second, expert human tutors were found to most frequently handle learner confusion by providing direct instruction and responded differently to learner confusion compared to anxiety, frustration, and happiness. Finally, two experiments were conducted to test the effectiveness of pedagogical and motivational confusion regulation interventions. Both types of interventions were investigated within a learning environment that experimentally induced confusion via the presentation of contradictory information by two animated agents (tutor and peer student agents). Results showed across both studies that learner effort during the confusion regulation task impacted confusion resolution and that learning occurred when the intervention provided the opportunity for learners to stop, think, and deliberate about the concept being discussed. Implications for building more effective affect-sensitive learning environments are discussed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.