Q2. “Chunking” information
‘Chunking’ refers to the teaching method of chunking important or relevant information together in order to reduce cognitive load. This is a mnemonic learning technique where designers group “content in a way that makes it easier to recall” (Dawson, 2011, p. 181). The theory is based on research showing that users are better able to retain bite sized chunks of information rather than a swathe of data, which can be overwhelming and difficult to remember. Research indicates that total cognitive load should not exceed working memory resources, because if too much information is presented at one time, learning may become difficult or impossible (Sweller, Ayres, Kalyuga, & Ebook, 2011, p. 64). An example of this is that “we often learn and recall long sequences in smaller segments, such as a phone number 858 534 22 30 memorized as four segments” (Fonollosa, Neftci, & Rabinovich, 2015, p. 1). Another example is the use of dot points in PowerPoints, or when taking notes. The grouping and then subgrouping of information makes it easier for the brain to first retain and then classify information.
In relation to employing the ‘chunking’ technique in design, designers should present information they wish to communicate as simply and concisely as possible, grouping it into easily retained ‘chunks’ for effective learning. This reduces cognitive load for the user, and allows them to focus and learn more easily. The user should be able to easily identify important information, and then link that information together as they go. Chunking makes information more easily retainable.
Dawson, A. (2011). Distinctive Design: A Practical Guide to a Findable, Useful, Beautiful Web: Wiley.
Fonollosa, J., Neftci, E., & Rabinovich, M. (2015). Learning of Chunking Sequences in Cognition and Behavior. PLoS Computational Biology, 11(11) doi:
Sweller, J., Ayres, P. L., Kalyuga, S., & Ebook, L. (2011). Cognitive load theory (Vol. 1). New York: Springer.