In Search Of… The Wary Student, Part II: Load and Behavior

Pack your bags, look to the stars, and prepare to go in search of…


This post will began by describing Cognitive Load, and continue by refreshing the viewr on Cooperative Behavior (previously discussed in The Wary Guerrilla). Last, today’s contribution will discuss how these concepts work in the mind and, more important, in the classroom.

Cognitive load is composed of the the “the number and nature of component skills involved.. and the complexity of the goal hierarchy” (Paas & van Merrienboer, 1994, 355). Two aspects of cognitive load are the the split-attention effect (where information is physically separated on a page) and redundancy effect (where information is repeated in different media) (Kalyuga, Chandler, & Sweller, 2000). While discovered in their contemporary form in the 1980s and 1990s (Sweller & Chandler, 1991), they have been observed for generations (Miller, 1937; Sonneschein, 1982 Sweller & Chandler, 1994) across many domains of knowledge (Mwangi & Sweller, 1998).

This study rejects the notion, found in some academic literature (Dixon, 1991; Goldman, 1991), that cognitive load theory is impractical. Instead, this research seeks cognitive load as an necessary part of instructional design. By establishing how wary student behavior is effected by cognitive load, this paper continues the work of uniting motivational and cognitive psychology (Sherman & Sherman, 1999) and, more importantly, allows students to do and learn more in educational settings.

The wary student is a pro-social, cooperative individual driven by a distaste for unfairness as much as a desire for personal gain. He helps those who have unjust difficulty in completing work, though goes out of his way to cause trouble for cheaters who try to take advantage of others.

Cooperative Behavior is hypothesized to be an instinctual reaction to group life, while self-interested behavior is presumed to be the product of reflection and reationality. Therefore, this research will increase the subjects’ cognitive load in order to deter them from reflecting on their actions — the assumption is that this increased load will increase cooperative behavior.

All research faces the “so what? question, and here the answer is obvious: cooperation is sometimes very good, sometimes very bad, but always very important in a classroom. Cooperation means peer-on-peer tutoring, but it also means peer-on-peer cheating and peer-on-peer revenge. If manipulating cognitive load effects these actions, the ability to alter such load becomes an important tool for teachers.

Alford & Hibbing noted that, as humans, “we have an innate inclination to cooperate, particularly within defined group boundaries, but we are also highly sensitive to selfish actions on the part of other group members” (2004, 709). This is a foundation for the theory of wary cooperatives, people who often display “two, often competing desire: They want a reputation as a fair, desirable, possibly generous, but certainly not foolish person [but also] worry about members oft the group who would take advantage of others if given the chance” (Hibbing & Alford, 2004, 65) Wary cooperators are “inherently disposed to be group oriented, high sensitive to be taken advantage of, and willing to incur costs to punish others who are perceived as putting themselves above the group” (Smith, 2006, 1013).

Related to the concept of the wary cooperator is the wary guerrilla. As outlined by The Wary Guerrilla, the wary guerrilla is a type of cooperator who accepts an absolute reduction in welfare to punish unjust partners. Wary Guerrillas would rather they end up worse than they began as long as the unfair person did not escape punishment. More information on the details of this experiment appear later in this paper.

In Search Of, a tdaxp series
1. Educational Psychology
2. Load and Behavior
3. Experiments
4. Conclusions
5. Bibliography

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