An interesting flaw in Cognitive Load Theory

Filling the pail

A new paper has been published by Ouhao Chen and colleagues that points to a flaw in one of the assumptions of Cognitive Load Theory (CLT); a flaw with some potentially interesting implications.

One of the central ideas of CLT is that the working memory in which we consciously process new (biologically secondary) information is limited, but these limits fall away once dealing with knowledge stored in long term memory. I used to think of this as a design flaw; that you could perhaps improve on humans by expanding our working memories but CLT assumes there is a reason for this limit: Given that information passes through working memory into long term memory, it prevents rapid and disruptive changes to long term memory.

Apart from when dealing with knowledge stored in long term memory, CLT assumes that the working memory capacity of an individual is fixed. This…

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