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Comics are often associated with super-heroes, humour and funny animals. The term 'comic book' also usually conjures images of a medium which is juvenile, cheap and disposable.

However, there is a long history of comics being used as supplementary materials in school settings. These uses have ranged from using comics as tools for teaching different subjects like sociology (e.g see Burns, 1999; Snyder, 1997); general comprehension and memory (Brooks, 1977); perceptual skills (Singh, 1981); reading (e.g. Aleixo & Norris, 2007; Millard & Marsh, 2001) and acculturation (Takashima, 1978). Some authors have also suggested the positive benefits of using comics to teach children with learning difficulties (e.g. Hallenbeck, 1976).

Comics also appear to be a good medium to impart educational material. In a study published earlier this year (Aleixo & Sumner, 2017), we found that memory for educational material presented in a comic book format was better remembered than the same information presented in text alone or in a combination of random images and text. Other studies have found similar results. This shows that the special combination of words and pictures in a sequence, increases the memorability of that material. In fact, a cognitive theory (Dual-Coding Theory) can be used to explain why comics might be superior at imparting information.

While more research is clearly needed, these early findings suggest that comics could be a good source of teaching materials in schools and other educational establishments.


Paul Aleixo is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University. His research interests include the application of Comic books to educational settings. He is the author of ‘Biological Psychology an Illustrated Survival Guide’; a comic book format undergraduate textbook published by Wiley which has been translated into simplified Chinese and Greek. He recently published research in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics which found that memory for material presented in comic book format was better than that for material in text only format. This was picked up by national and international media including an interview on the ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4.


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