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Journal Articles Evolutionary Psychology: an International Journal of Evolutionary Approaches to Psychology and Behavior Year : 2024

Reasoning More Efficiently with Primary Knowledge Despite Extraneous Cognitive Load

Abstract

Geary's evolutionary approach in educational psychology differentiates between primary (low cognitive costs and motivational advantage) and secondary knowledge (high cognitive costs and no motivational benefit). Although these features have been well demonstrated in previous work, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. To investigate it, in a reasoning task, the present study varies (i) the content of the problems (primary knowledge vs. secondary; e.g., food vs. grammar rules), (ii) the intrinsic cognitive load (conflict or non-conflict syllogism, the former requiring more cognitive resources to be properly processed than the latter) and (iii) the extraneous cognitive load (via a Dot Memory Task with three modalities: low, medium and high cognitive load). Analyses assessed the influence of these variables on performance, problem solving speed and perceived cognitive load. Results confirmed the positive impact of primary knowledge on efficiency, particularly when intrinsic cognitive load was high. Surprisingly, the extraneous cognitive load did not influence the performance in secondary knowledge content but that in primary knowledge content: the higher the additional load was, the better the performance was, only for primary knowledge and especially for syllogisms with high intrinsic load. Findings support evolutionary theory as secondary knowledge would overload cognitive resources, preventing participants from allocating sufficient resources to solve problems. Primary knowledge would allow participants to process the additional load and to increase their performance despite this. This study also raises the hypothesis that a minimum cognitive load is necessary for participants to be invested in the task.
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hal-04637086 , version 1 (05-07-2024)

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Florence Lespiau, André Tricot. Reasoning More Efficiently with Primary Knowledge Despite Extraneous Cognitive Load. Evolutionary Psychology: an International Journal of Evolutionary Approaches to Psychology and Behavior, 2024, 22 (2), ⟨10.1177/14747049241252694⟩. ⟨hal-04637086⟩
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