Your brain is only able to process so much at one time. Read on to learn about 3 different types of cognitive load to help you think more efficiently.

The 3 Different Types of Cognitive Load, Explained

Does your study material hit a brick wall when students aren’t able to comprehend the material? Is that brick wall due to a problem known as cognitive load?

Cognitive load theory posits that too much information given to learners at once can slow learning. That can impact the quality of teaching and learning processes, making it more and more difficult to gain knowledge in a classroom or tutorial space.

So, what causes high and low cognitive loads, and how do you measure how much of it is in your learning materials? The answer may be one of these three types of cognitive load.

In this guide, we’ll cover all three types of cognitive load and how they work.

1. Intrinsic Cognitive Load

There are three different types of cognitive load and one of them is the intrinsic cognitive load. It is the amount of cognitive effort required to process and understand the information presented. 

For example, it’s easier to learn basic math, like addition and subtraction, than it is to learn calculus and algebra.

2. Germane Cognitive Load

Germane cognitive load is the amount of processing required to learn or remember something.

A common example would be creating flowcharts in presentations to explain complex concepts. The systematic organization of information makes it easier for people to learn and remember.

3. Extraneous Cognitive Load

The extraneous load is the amount of mental processing required that is not essential to either the completion or learning of the task. 

Extraneous cognitive load occurs when the amount of mental processing required to complete the task exceeds the amount of mental processing that is required.

This can happen when the task is overly complex, when the instructions are unclear, or when the learner is using an ineffective learning strategy.

There are a lot of examples that describe extraneous cognitive load such as carrying a conversation while reading a book.

Doing two things at the same time like for example, reading a book about good financial modelling benefits while talking about bad ways to spend your money can lead to a distraction from learning.

Also, another example is working in a room that has an uncomfortable temperature.

The best way to work in a room with an uncomfortable temperature is to try to minimize the cognitive load by being aware of the different types and how they can affect our ability to work.

If the primary cognitive load is too high, we can take breaks to cool down or warm up.

Learn More About the Types of Cognitive Load Today

Cognitive load theory is an important tool for understanding how our working memory is taxed when we are trying to learn or remember something.

When we need to learn or remember something, it is important to first assess the type of cognitive load that will be required. If the task is simple and the information is already well-organized, the cognitive load will be low.

However, if the task is complex or the information is disorganized, the cognitive load will be high. By understanding the cognitive load of a task, we can determine the best approach for learning or remembering the information.

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