Week 3 Question 1

Performance Load and Visual Communication

Summary and Discussion:

Lidwell, Holden, & Butler state that performance load is the degree of mental and physical activity required to achieve a task (2003, p.148). When it is high, performance time and errors increase, and when it is low, the opposite is true. It comes in two forms.

Cognitive Load: the amount of mental activity required and can be reduced by minimalizing visual noise, chunking information, using memory aids and automating computer and memory intensive tasks, which benefits those with limited cognitive processing capacity (Sweller, 1988, p. 261). It also takes into consideration “the demands a certain task imposed on an individual” (Plass, Moreno & Brünken, 2010, p. 10).Cognitive load can be both intrinsic and extrinsic.

 Intrinsic cognitive load is imposed by the basic structure of the information that the learner needs to acquire for achieving learning goals regardless of the instructional procedures used. However, a task with a low cognitive load may still be difficult.

Extrinsic cognitive load is imposed by the way the information is presented or the activities in which learners must engage. (Sweller, Ayres & Kalyuga, 2011, p. 57)

Kinematic Load: the degree of physical activity required to complete a goal and can be reduced by minimizing the number of steps required, the range of motion and travel distances, and automating repetitive tasks.

Design should always aim to minimize performance load to the greatest degree possible as this would hence enhance usability.



Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Performance Load. In Universal Principles of Design (pp.  148‐149). Massachusetts: Rockport.

Plass, J. L., Moreno, R., & Brünken, R. (2010). Cognitive load theory. Cambridge University Press.

Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem-solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive science12(2), 257-285.

: Sweller, J., Ayres, P., & Kalyuga, S. (2011). Cognitive load theory (Explorations in the learning sciences, instructional systems and performance technologies). New York: Springer.


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