Does task-irrelevant colour information create extraneous cognitive load? Evidence from a learning task

Paul Miller, Batel Hazan-Liran, Danielle Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have shown that task-irrelevant information impedes learning by creating extraneous cognitive load. But still open is whether such intrusion reflects a purely semantic phenomenon or whether it also stands for sheer perceptual interference. Using Cognitive Load Theory as a framework, this study aimed to answer this question by examining whether and how task-irrelevant colour information modifies extraneous cognitive load in relation to a new code-learning paradigm. For this purpose, university students were asked to learn, based on an example, associations between colour-related and colour-unrelated words and digits presented in black or in a mismatched ink colour. Evident costs in learning efficacy were found in learning the associations between words and digits for colour-related, but not for colour-unrelated, word stimuli. This suggests that interference by task-irrelevant information in learning stands for a mere semantic conflict. Implications of the findings for extraneous cognitive load on learning efficacy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1163
Number of pages9
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Experimental Psychology Society 2018.


  • Learning
  • cognitive load theory
  • extraneous cognitive load
  • task-irrelevant information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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