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Cognitive load

Tended 5 months ago (1 time) Planted 7 months ago Mentioned 0 times

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A theory for measuring the difficulty of understanding concepts or completing tasks based largely on their complexity. Cognitive overload refers to when cognitive load is high enough to impair understanding or task completion.

According to the theory, there are three types of cognitive load:

  1. Intrinsic load maps to the inherent complexity of a concept, based on its number of component parts and the degree of their interactions. It is fundamentally limited by the short-term/working memory of the learner, which varies but is typically between 3-7 novel elements. Because long-term memory is unlimited, a strategy for addressing high intrinsic load is to break complex concepts up into simpler ones, introduced gradually, so that elements of the complex concept can be committed to long-term memory to overcome the limits of working memory.
  2. Extraneous load is the additional cognitive overhead imposed by bad instructional design, including distractions, inconsistencies, and other unnecessary difficulties. This should be minimized at all costs.
  3. Germane load refers to the cognitive resources spent integrating a novel concept with existing knowledge. Unlike the prior two types, germane load can and should be encouraged, such as by relating new concepts to existing ones (like tries to do with mentions and references). Because all cognitive load can contribute to overload, managing intrinsic load and minimizing extraneous load are key to maximizing the learner’s cognitive resources available for germane load.

I plan to write more on how this relates to API design.