Cognitive Load


MJ Banner.png

Most schools require students to wear uniforms. There are various reasons for this; however, one of the benefits is that students do not have to decide what to wear each day.  Wearing a uniform reduces students' cognitive load. Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and other great achievers reduced their cognitive load by reducing the number of decisions that needed to be made every day.  Some had their own 'uniform' and wore the same thing every day to reduce the number of decisions that they had to make each day, thus freeing up their 'brain power' for other, more important decisions.

Irrespective of an individual's fitness level, we all experience exhaustion when additional physical exercise is undertaken.  It is the same with the brain.  Additional 'load' – created by things we need to think about, can accumulate and eventually deplete the brain's energy.  We need to ensure that the brain is generally fit and active, but we should not 'overload' the brain with unnecessary cognitive load.

Apart from wearing a uniform to school, another way to reduce cognitive load is to establish routines associated with what occurs during the day.  Just as cleaning one's teeth becomes a routine considered essential to maintain dental hygiene, other routines can be established to create additional benefits.  Regular sleep times (especially associated with going to bed and getting up at specific times) can ensure that an adequate amount of sleep underpins optimal cognitive functioning.

The routine established by having regular mealtimes means that the brain has sufficient nutrients to work well. A racing car requires high-octane fuel, and a jet plane requires specialist aviation fuel. Adolescent bodies that are growing rapidly and using a lot of energy to think and perform at their best, require high quality food and in some cases, food that is specifically designed to meet their needs. Inappropriate food is likely to damage the system while reducing cognitive effectiveness.

Physical activity can be automatized, with students incorporating exercise as part of their regular routine. Cognitive load is reduced if one doesn't have to consider when, how or what exercise will be done but there are benefits when an exercise practice is established, and exercise becomes included as a regular part of the individual's daily routine, thus reducing cognitive load while ensuring that exercise is maintained.

The routine of academic work in school is regulated by bells and timetables to remove cognitive load and ensure that everyone knows what is expected but routines at home are not always implemented to ensure that academic tasks are completed optimally. A pattern of regular behaviour associated with completing academic tasks (including revision, homework, assignments, and preparation for exams) will not only reduce cognitive load but also reduce the stress and anxiety that often accompanies a last-minute flurry of activity to complete academic tasks. Reducing cognitive load has numerous benefits.

​© Michele Juratowitch

Back to news feed
Last reviewed 15 July 2022
Last updated 15 July 2022