The impact of working memory and cognitive load on surgical and non-surgical residents
Eric Bean, CSF2, USA
Theme: Mental training/interventions
Program ID: SYM-14
Presentation: October 3, 2013 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm
Cognitive load theory is commonly discussed in educational psychology as a mechanism to inform educators that our working memory is limited by the amount of information it can hold as well as the amount it can process (Sweller, 1999). Therefore, if a lecture is designed in a fashion that exceeds a learner’s working memory capacity, performance (e.g. comprehension or storage into long-term memory) will suffer. Working memory is essentially a system that actively holds information in order to manipulate that information for verbal and non-verbal tasks (i.e. reasoning, decision-making, and comprehension). Working memory and cognitive load (more specifically cognitive overload) have been extensively discussed in choking literature (Beilock & Carr, 2005). It has been shown that choking can occur when working memory resources, typically devoted to skill execution, are consumed by thoughts of worry, anxiety or other mental distractions. Recent research has demonstrated that cognitive overload effects surgical and non-surgical doctors in a similar fashion by impacting their decision making skills which leads to diagnostic errors (Chisholm, et al 2000; Laxmisan, et al, 2007; Wears & Leape, 1999) resulting in preventable errors. In my work with surgical and non-surgical residents I have seen performance challenges due to cognitive overload in a variety of their performance domains. Because of the nature of the medical environment their working memory is frequently used (e.g. diagnosing patients, applying recently learned material, etc.) and, therefore, often at risk for overload. In this presentation I will demonstrate how I explain cognitive load, the factors that contribute to cognitive overload, how increased cognitive load affects performance and how common sport psychology strategies can be used to reduce cognitive load.