Performance Load

What is Performance Load?

The concept of performance load can be defined as the amount of energy required, both mentally and physically, to perform a task (Lidwell, Holden & Butler, 2003).  If the performance load is high then it is more likely that you will make a mistake or fail to complete the task due to the excessive amounts of energy needed. If the performance load is low then it is more likely you will succeed at the task with minimal or no mistakes. When broken down the concept of performance load can be defined by two factors: cognitive and kinematic.

Cognitive load involves the mental capacity to understand and solve problems, perception and memory. The memory section can also be broken down into two parts, working and long term (Bozarth, 2010). The brain can only hold 7 pieces of information at a given time (Miller, 1956) therefore increasing the risk of mistakes however, if the amount of information is limited then the load becomes more bearable and you will be able to retain more information (Plass, 2010).

Kinematic load refers to the amount of physical energy required to accomplish the task. The more energy required the harder it is to complete the task. The less energy and the easier the task will become (Lidwell, Holden & Butler, 2003).

What is “chunking”?

Chunking helps improve one memory performance. It is the breaking down of information to make it easier to retain (malamed, 2010). When presented with large amounts of information it makes it difficult to understand and retain the information. When the information is broken down into “chunks” people tend to be more observant making it a lot easier for the information to be retained (Miller, 1955).

The concept of chunking  was designed because the brain has a certain capacity in which information can be stored within the working memory. Chunking can be broken down into two categories: expository advanced organizers and comparative advance organizers (Lidwell, Holden & Butler, 2003). The advanced organizers only contain the information that can be held within the working memory. Expository advanced organizers are used when the person needs to be exposed to new information, as they have no prior information on it. The comparative advance organizers compare the information that they have previously learnt with what they already knew about the topic (Lidwell, Holden & Butler, 2003).

An example of chunking is websites. The information on websites is usually set up in chunks to allow the brain to absorb the information easily. The use of headings and sub headings allow for not only an easy read but also the ability to identify and retain the important information. If a web page is overloaded then it makes it a lot more difficult for the person to find the important information and to retain which generally results in the user finding a different site that is easy to understand.

Is psychology necessary in design?

Psychology is necessary in design as it provides an understanding of how the brain functions and what will be aesthetically pleasing to a person’s eye. As performance load has to be taken into consideration it is important to make the design as simple as possible so little effort is require and information can be retained. It is also necessary for the design to be aesthetically pleasing to ensure the product sells therefore it is necessary to understand how the brain functions even if it is only a brief understanding. The way the mind perceives information is complex and can affect human emotions thus it is important to do background information into how the mind works to gain an advantage in marketing.


Three examples:

1) Credit card:

A credit card is an example of cognitive load. It uses the technique of chunking which makes the credit card number visible and easy to read. The 16 digits are broken down into groups of four, which makes it easier for the brain to retain the information therefore allowing the person to memorize the number.

2) GPS:

A GPS (global positioning satellite) is a useful gadget, which dramatically lowers a person’s performance load. By pushing a single button or keying in a destination, a person can be shown a route to return home or a route to reach their destination. This is more efficient than a map as the product does all the thinking for you thus lowering your performance load.

3) Online Shopping:

Online shopping is a form of kinematic load. It allows consumers to shop online from their favourite store without having to leave the house. It also allow for overseas shopping which makes it easier to get items without having to travel thus lowering the cognitive load. Like all things there is a catch that can increase both the cognitive load and the kinematic load as not all site offer international shipping or even free shipping. However most sites do offer size and price conversion charts and a sign up link so consumers can be updated with all the new items that come into their favourite stores.


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