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Psychology | Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory

Sweller, John, Ayres, Paul, Kalyuga, Slava

2011, XVI, 274p. 20 illus..

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  • Provides a definitive statement of unique cognitive architecture and novel instructional design principles generated by cognitive load theory
  • Contains the most inclusive and comprehensive review of the literature on cognitive load theory conducted

Cognitive Load Theory


John Sweller, Paul Ayres, Slava Kalyuga



Effective instructional design depends on the close study of human cognitive architecture—the processes and structures that allow people to acquire and use knowledge. Without this background, we might recognize that a teaching strategy is successful, but have no understanding as to why it works, or how it might be improved.


Cognitive Load Theory offers a novel, evolutionary-based perspective on the cognitive architecture that informs instructional design. By conceptualizing biological evolution as an information processing system and relating it to human cognitive processes, cognitive load theory bypasses many core assumptions of traditional learning theories. Its focus on the aspects of human cognitive architecture that are relevant to learning and instruction (particularly regarding the functions of long-term and working memory) puts the emphasis on domain-specific rather than general learning, resulting in a clearer understanding of educational design and a basis for more effective instructional methods. Coverage includes:


  • The analogy between evolution by natural selection and human cognition.
  • Categories of cognitive load and their interactions in learning.
  • Strategies for measuring cognitive load.
  • Cognitive load effects and how they lead to educational innovation.
  • Instructional design principles resulting from cognitive load theory.


Academics, researchers, instructional designers, cognitive and educational psychologists, and students of cognition and education, especially those concerned with education technology, will look to Cognitive Load Theory as a vital addition to their libraries.


Content Level » Research

Keywords » categories of information - cognitive load theory - extraneous cognitive load - human cognitive architecture - human creativity - instructional design - instructional formatting - long-term memory - measuring cognitive load - modality effect - redundancy effect - split-attention effect

Related subjects » Cognitive Psychology - Learning & Instruction - Psychology

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