International audience; The aim of the present contribution is to test whether and to what extent cognitive load theory may account for working memory performance in the field of ergonomics. We will briefly present the theoretical and methodological principles of cognitive load theory, developed initially by Sweller (1988) in the field of educational psychology, and some of the more critical issues addressed recently. Thereafter, we report three experiments exploring the relations between the three load categories defined by cognitive load theory, by using working memory tasks. The influence of intrinsic and extrinsic cognitive load categories was explored by manipulating respectively task difficulty and time pressure. The consequences of the less documented germane load were proposed to depend on participantsâ alertness that varies spontaneously across the day (Galy, Cariou, and MÃ©lan, 2012). In order to test for additive effects between load categories, effects of intrinsic and extrinsic load were explored both separately and simultaneously, and when participantsâ alertness level was either high or low. This procedure was tested in a mental arithmetic task and in a recall task performed by participants in controlled laboratory conditions and when the same arithmetic task was performed by air traffic controllers in a real-job situation. Results led to the conclusion of an additive interaction between intrinsic and extraneous cognitive load factors, in addition to modulatory effects by germane load.
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