Four Ways of Considering Emotion in Cognitive Load Theory

Jan L. Plass, Slava Kalyuga

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We discuss four ways in which emotion may relate to cognitive load during learning. One perspective describes emotions as extraneous cognitive load, competing for the limited resources of working memory by requiring the processing of task-extra or task-irrelevant information. Another perspective shows that encoding, storage, and retrieval of information are affected by emotion even before awareness of the material, and that emotion may directly affect memory by broadening or narrowing cognitive resources, and by mechanisms such as mood-dependent and mood-congruent processing. A third perspective describes how emotion may affect intrinsic cognitive load, such as when emotion regulation is part of the learning outcomes. We also discuss a dual-channel assumption for emotions. A final perspective is that emotion affects motivation, and, in turn, mental effort investment. These four ways of considering emotion as part of CLT are best understood when taking an interval view of cognitive load.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-359
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019


  • Cognitive load theory
  • Emotion
  • Emotion and cognitive load
  • Emotion and learning
  • Processing models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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