Cognitive Overload -


   Cognitive overall is the science of trying to measure the load upon working memory. The must fundamental principle of cognitive overload is that if working memory is overloaded, then effective learning cannot take place. Cognitive overload exists when people try to drive whilst using  a mobile phone.


          A simple example of cognitive overload is attempting to learn through an unfamiliar language.  People, who are bilingual, will always learn more effectively in the language they are most fluent in, even when the difference is marginal. Thus reflects the fact that amongst monolingual speakers, the more fluent children or adults are in their learning, the more effectively they will learn through it.


   There are three elements of cognitive load intrinsic, extraneous and Germaine load.

   Intrinsic cognitive load relates to what cannot be changed. If  children are asked multiply two times two for then first time, for instance, the cognitive load is fixed. It cannot be changed, but complex tasks may be translated into segments to reduce the load.

         Extraneous cognitive load is the load that is not necessary for learning. It relates to cognitive load that can be changed. John Sweller refers to task of attempting to describe a square verbally. It would  require a long explanation.

       If a diagram of square is introduced, then the cognitive load will be reduced. In practice showing  diagram with oral support will normally be the most effective means of introducing the concept, especially with unfamiliar shapes.

  A very interesting example of cognitive overload is if we try to listen two pieces of music at the same times. This arises because the involves the same mode, the aural. A similar problem can arise if we listen to music while trying to learn something aurally. 

  A means of reducing cognitive load is to use two modalities, aural and visual. This is why multisensory learning reduces cognitive load, providing each mode does not conflict with each other.

   Germaine load is the ability to think above the intrinsic and extraneous load to solve problems and learn. If Germaine load is high, then this can cause general cognitive overload.

Measuring the individual elements of cognitive load is not an exact science. Measuring overall cognitive load is more precise. Giving active consideration to the elements of cognitive load allow more precise consideration to the factors that cause it.


      Fluency reduces the demands upon working memory. Fluent recall of factual memory reduces the demands upon it. Often what is taught in a lesson may is not novel.

      Fluency in skills also reduces the working memory load. Developing fluency in language and arithmetic is important educationally. It is important to develop fluency in the four elements of languages oracy, listening, reading and writing.

         Understanding relates to internal states of mind that we cannot view directly. It is something learners can only develop through responding to appropriately presented learning experience. It presence reduces cognitive load. It value lies in the adaptability of it.

       The most explicit example of cognitive overload is learning to speak a new language by rote in the 'say after me' rote tutoring approach. Learners become overwhelmed by the range of skills that they need to coordinate into an overall continuous performance that their speaking performance will break down. This is why learners become apprehensive about speaking in their new languages.

     Assessing the elements of cognitive load is not an exact science. It does allows consideration to be given to the causes of cognitive overload and how it can be reduced.