Cognitive load theory

Different kinds of tasks has different demands on people’s working memory. More complex and difficult tasks has higher "cognitive load" and a greater perceived mental effort. There are 3 types of cognitive load..

  • Inherent: Inherent difficulty of the topic (adding 2+2 vs. solving a differential equation)
  • Extraneous: The format of learning materials (showing a picture of a square vs. explain it verbally)
  • Germane: Effort creating a permanent store of knowledge (such as notes, outlines, diagrams etc)

To learn easier...

  • Reducing inherent load by splitting the information into small parts which can be learned in isolation, and then reassembled into a full picture.
  • Redirecting extraneous load into germane load (i.e. focusing learner's attention on the construction of permanent stores of knowledge - Zettelkasten is a good way of doing this)