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2182 M Mental Efficiency

Name-Match, involves stimulus encoding, comparison Jensen, A. R. (1998). The g factor. Westport: Praeger.
of the semantic features of the stimulus, a binary deci- Jensen, A. R. (2006). Clocking the mind: Mental chronometry and
individual differences. Oxford: Elsevier.
sion, and response selection. Name-Match RT is signif-
Neisser, U. (1967). Cognitive psychology. New York: Meredith.
icantly longer than Physical-Match RT. Significant Posner, M. I. (1978). Chronometric explorations of mind. Hillsdale:
differences have also been found between subjects of Erlbaum.
high and low verbal ability, and RT in a modified Sternberg, S. (1966). High speed scanning in human memory. Sci-
version of the Posner paradigm has been found to ence, 153, 652654.
Vickers, D., Nettelbeck, T., & Willson, R. J. (1972). Perceptual indices
significantly correlate (negatively) with intelligence.
of performance: The measurement of inspection time and
Inspection Time. Although research on inspection noise in the visual system. Perception, 1, 263295.
time (IT) has been traced to James McKeen Cattell in
the 1880s, contemporary interest in IT stems from the
work of Vickers, Nettelbeck and their colleagues (e.g.,
Vickers et al. 1972). IT, the only index of mental speed
that does not involve either motor (output) compo- Mental Efficiency
nents or executive cognitive processes (meta-pro-
cesses), is held to tap individual differences in the Cognitive Efficiency
speed of apprehension, the quickness of the brain to
react to external stimuli prior to any conscious
thought. Meta-analysis results suggest that IT is corre-
lated at approximately .54.
In sum, many different ECTs, ostensibly tapping Mental Effort
different stages of processing (such as encoding, STM
scanning, and LTM retrieval) have been used to inves- PAUL A. KIRSCHNER1, FEMKE KIRSCHNER2
1
tigate the relationship between RT and intelligence. Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies, Open
Each of the ECTs discussed has been found to have University of the Netherlands, Heerlen,
modest, but reliable (negative) correlations with intel- The Netherlands
2
ligence, typically in the range of .30 to .50. The Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University
correlation between these ECTs and intelligence may, Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
in fact, be somewhat higher after correction for the
attenuating effects of restriction of range and measure-
ment error. Multiple correlations between intelligence Synonyms
and various measures of RT are approximately .60. Cognitive efficiency; Cognitive load; Mental load
Jensen (2006) convincingly argued that further
advances in mental chronometry will depend in large Definition
part upon standardization of chronometric apparatus The number of non-automatic elaborations applied to
and testing procedures to eliminate the potentially a unit of material to be learned (Salomon 1984, p. 648).
confounding effects of method variance.
Theoretical Background
Cross-References
Human Cognition and Learning What Mental Effort Is
Human Cognitive Architecture Mental effort was first used as a concept to help deter-
Intelligence, Learning and Neural Plasticity mine how hard a person tries to actively process
Memory Persistence presented information. It was seen as a combination
Working Memory of perceived demand characteristics, perceived self-effi-
cacy, and level/depth of information processing such
References that the first two influence the last which determines
Hick, W. (1952). On the rate of gain of information. The Quarterly the amount of invested mental effort. Perceived demand
Journal of Experimental Psychology, 4, 1126. characteristics depend upon the degree to which
Mental Effort M 2183

a source (e.g., a stimulus, task, context) that is being supplanted mental effort though often used inter-
attended to poses demands on oness processing, changeably with it is cognitive load (P. Kirschner 2002;
because information has to be extracted, discriminated Sweller 1988; see also Cognitive Load Theory in this
among, remembered, and elaborated upon (Salomon Encyclopedia). Cognitive load is based upon human
1984). Research has shown that if the source is seen by cognitive architecture which consists of a severely lim-
a person as being complex (e.g., if a person is ited working memory with partly independent
a complete novice) and/or if the learner is told that processing units for visual/spatial and auditory/verbal
the content of the presented material will be tested, information, which interacts with a comparatively
then the perceived demand will be high. If a person unlimited long-term memory. Paas et al. (2003) see,
perceived the source as being simple (e.g., he/she is in this respect, mental effort as the aspect of cognitive
more of an expert in the area) and/or is told just to load that refers to the cognitive capacity that is actually
enjoy the materials, then the perceived demand will be allocated to accommodate the demands imposed by the
low. Perceived self-efficacy (Bandura 1982) relates to task; thus, it can be considered to reflect the
how efficacious a person is; the extent that one believes actual cognitive load (p. 64). Cognitive load theory
that he/she is capable of performing in a specific man- distinguishes between three types of cognitive load,
ner to attain specific goals. According to Bandura, the dependent on the type of processing causing it, namely
more efficacious learners perceive themselves to be, the intrinsic load, extraneous load, and germane load
more likely they are to invest sustained effort to carry which are additive in that, if learning is to occur, the
out a task. In this respect it is related to persistence and total load of the three together cannot exceed the work-
motivation (F. Kirschner et al. 2011). Finally, depth of ing memory resources available.
processing (Craik and Lockhart 1972) relates to the
degree to which a person encodes/recodes a source. How Mental Effort Is Measured
The idea is that the more one elaborates meaning To measure mental effort, a 9-point symmetrical cate-
M
with already experienced associations, images, and gory scale is often used (Paas and Van Merrienboer
stories, the more likely one is to remember something. 1993). This scale is a subjective, indirect measure of
To this end, encoding/recoding of studied materials for cognitive load that asks learners to report the amount
semantic meaning is seen as deeper processing and of mental effort that they invested in understanding
requires more mental elaborations than encoding/ learning materials ranging from very, very, very little
recoding for orthographic features. Put together, the effort to very, very, very much effort.
amount of invested mental effort was defined by Salo-
mon as the number of non-automatic elaborations What This Means
applied to a unit of material (Salomon 1984, p. 648) Knowing the mental effort that can and is invested
that a person invests which is determined by her/his when attending to a source is important in three
feelings of self-efficacy, how the task is perceived which, ways. First, from the classical definition of mental effort
in turn, determines how deeply the information will be (Salomon 1984) it can be used to mediate learning. By
processed. In this way remembering simple factual affecting the learners perceived self-efficacy and/or by
information is considered to require little mental effort the learners perception of the task characteristics, both
while inferential learning requires more mental effort. depth of processing and amount of invested mental
Furthermore, in Salomons terms, learning from easy effort can be positively influenced.
media such as when watching television requires little Second, from the cognitive load perspective, it can
mental effort leading to more surface level learning be used to help design and develop better instruction.
while learning from tough media such as learning Instructional designs which increase extraneous load
from reading books is seen as requiring more mental and which do not help and/or even hamper learning
effort, with a concomitant increase in deeper learning. should be avoided while designs which reduce extrane-
ous load (with or without a concomitant increase in
From Mental Effort to Cognitive Load germane load) should be embraced. Also, instructional
As stated, mental effort was based upon cognitive, designs that result in unused working memory capacity
perceptual, and volitional factors. A term that has due to low extraneous load can be further improved by
2184 M Mental Effort

encouraging learners to engage in conscious cognitive task relates to the conventional measures taken dur-
processing directly relevant to learning. The greater the ing or after performing the task. Recently, this pre-
proportion of germane cognitive load created by the mental effort rating has been used as an indicator of
instructional design, the greater the potential for a learners confidence in completing a task success-
learning. fully instead of one of the more traditional measure-
Finally, mental effort can be used to determine the ments of self- or group-efficacy (F. Kirschner et al.
instructional efficiency of learning materials which is 2011).
useful for either comparing instructional designs or
researching them. The combination of mental effort
Cross-References
and performance allows the determination of instruc-
AIME (Amount of Invested Mental Effort)
tional efficiency in that high-task performance associ-
Capacity Limitations of Memory and Learning
ated with low effort is considered high instructional
Cognitive Load Measurement
efficiency, whereas low-task performance with high
Cognitive Load Theory
effort is considered low-instructional efficiency (Paas
Cognitive Tasks and Learning
and Van Merrienboer 1993; Van Gog and Paas 2008).
Schema Development
Self-Efficacy and Learning
Important Scientific Research and Short-Term Memory
Open Questions
Group Mental Effort References
Although, contemporary thinking about learning Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. The
both initial and lifelong has gravitated from individ- American Psychologist, 37, 122147.
Craik, F. I. M., & Lockhart, P. (1972). Levels of processing:
ual learning toward learning in collaborative environ-
A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning
ments or situations, research in which group instead of and Verbal Behavior, 11, 671684.
individual mental effort is the focus of attention has Hinsz, V. B., Tindale, R. S., & Vollrath, D. A. (1997). The emerging
not yet received much attention. Recently, group or conceptualization of groups as information processors. Psycho-
collaborative learning has become recognized as an logical Bulletin, 121, 4364.
alternative way of overcoming individual WM limita- Kirschner, P. A. (2002). Cognitive load theory: Implications of cog-
nitive load theory on the design of learning. Learning and
tions (F. Kirschner et al. 2009), in the sense that groups
Instruction, 12(1), 110.
of collaborative learners can be considered as informa- Kirschner, F., Paas, F., & Kirschner, P. A. (2009). A cognitive-load
tion-processing systems (Hinsz et al. 1997), consisting approach to collaborative learning: United brains for complex
of multiple limited WMs which can create a collective tasks. Educational Psychology Review, 21, 3142.
working space. At this point in time it is not clear Kirschner, F., Paas, F., & Kirschner, P. A. (2011). Superiority of
collaborative learning with complex tasks: A research note on
whether the same methodology used for determining
an alternative affective explanation. Computers in Human Behav-
mental effort in individuals can be reliably used for ior, 27(1), 5357.
determining group mental effort. Paas, F. G. W. C., & van Merrienboer, J. J. G. (1993). The efficiency of
instructional conditions: An approach to combine mental effort
Mental Effort During Task and performance measures. Human Factors, 35, 737743.
Performance Paas, F., Tuovinen, J. E., Tabbers, H., & van Gerven, P. (2003).
Cognitive load measurement as a means to advance cognitive
Mental effort measurements are normally collected
load theory. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 6371.
during or after the learning phase and when related to Salomon, G. (1984). Television is easy and print is tough: The
the performance scores, they can provide an indica- differential investment of mental effort in learning as a function
tion of the type of load imposed on the learner, the of perceptions and attributions. Journal of Educational Psychol-
quality of the learning outcomes, and the quality of ogy, 76(647), 658.
Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on
different instructional conditions (Paas and Van
learning. Cognitive Science, 12, 257285.
Merrienboer 1993; Van Gog and Paas 2008). In future Van Gog, T., & Paas, F. (2008). Instructional efficiency: Revisiting the
studies it would be interesting to investigate how the original construct in educational research. Educational Psycholo-
measurement of mental effort before performing the gist, 43, 1626.