Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 191–195 | Cite as

Cognitive Load Theory: A Broader View on the Role of Memory in Learning and Education

  • Fred PaasEmail author
  • Paul Ayres
Review Article


According to cognitive load theory (CLT), the limitations of working memory (WM) in the learning of new tasks together with its ability to cooperate with an unlimited long-term memory (LTM) for familiar tasks enable human beings to deal effectively with complex problems and acquire highly complex knowledge and skills. With regard to WM, CLT has focused to a large extent on learning task characteristics, and to a lesser extent on learner characteristics to manage WM load and optimize learning through instructional design. With regard to LTM, explanations of human learning and cognition have mainly focused on domain-general skills, instead of domain-specific knowledge held in LTM. The contributions to this special issue provide a broader cognitive load view on the role of memory in learning and education by presenting the historical roots and conceptual development of the concept of WM, as well as the theoretical and practical implications of current debates about WM mechanisms (Cowan 2014), by presenting an updated model of cognitive load in which the physical learning environment is considered a distinct causal factor for WM load (Choi et al. 2014), by an experimental demonstration of the effects of persistent pain on the available WM resources for learning (Smith and Ayres 2014), and by using aspects of evolutionary educational psychology to argue for the primacy of domain-specific knowledge in human cognition (Tricot and Sweller 2014).


Cognitive load theory Working memory Learning Education Instructional design 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Early Start Research InstituteUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  3. 3.School of EducationUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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