The Wary Student, Part 2: Cognitive Load

The portion of cognitive ability that is required to perform some task is referred to as cognitive load (Sweller, 1988). Cognitive load, 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) in many domains (Mwangi & Sweller, 1998). People use their cognitive abilities to interact with each other. Group interaction between students “does not naturally occur, but has to be explicitly initiated and maintained by them” (Hron & Friedrich, 2003, 72) and can be cognitively expensive (Dillenboug, 1999; Knowles, Morris, Chiu, & Hong, 2001).

While cognitive load theory focuses mostly on learning (Paas & Kester, 2006), researchers have studied how it effects behavior, too. Decision making (Todd & Benbasat, 1994; Dhar, Nowlis, & Sherman, 2000; Drolet & Luce, 2004), eating (Ward & Mann, 2000), fear conditioning (Carter, Hofstotter, Tsuchiya, & Koch, 2003), infidelity (DeStano, Bartlett, Braveman, & Salovey, 2002), lying (Vrij, Semin, & Bull, 1996; Vrij, Akehurst, & Knight, 2006), marketing (Ariely, 2000, Raghubir & Krishna, 1996), problem solving (Sweller, 1988), racism (Hewstone, Hantzi, & Johnston, 1991). and risk aversion (Benjamin, Brown, & Shapiro, 2006) have been been examined through cognitive load.

Further, in a distance environment this must be done without typical social cues that clarify meaning and tell people when to start and stop talking (Friedrich, Hron, & Hesse, 2001). Educational psychologists have begun to look seriously at how to turn this around and integrate social interaction into instructional web design (Lehman, Bruning, & Horn, 2003). Technology is not a silver bullet (Bruning, 2004) and can decrease performance when used incorrectly (Cramton, 2001). Therefore, considering how cognitive load already imposes size limits on groups (Cosmides & Tooby, 2004; Dillenbourg & Schneider, 1995) and forces students to rely on stereotypes (Fiske, 2000), the intersection of educational technology and cognitive load should be of particular concern to educational psychologists.


The Wary Student, a tdaxp research project
1. Abstract
2. Cognitive Load
3. Cooperative Behavior
4. Method
5. The Experiments
6. Hypotheses
7. Main-Effect Results
8. Interaction-Effect Results
9. Discussion
10. Future Research
11. Bibliography

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