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What is the Transient Information Effect?

What is the Transient Information Effect?

3 min read
  • Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory is one of the most dominant theories explaining how students learn. Many other effects have originated from this theory, such as The Redundancy Effect and The Split Attention effect, further improving not only our understanding of how students learn, but also, how teachers should be teaching.

One effect: the Transient Information Effect, is less discussed, but could arguably be considered the most important effect originating from Cognitive Load Theory.

The brilliant author and illustrator, Oliver Caviglioli recently pointed this out to us, which prompted us to collaborate with him on an 11-page ebook. Download the ebook for free here to dive deeper, or keep reading this blog to find out more about the Transient Information Effect first…

What is Cognitive Load Theory?

Cognitive Load Theory emphasises the limited capacity of working memory. It suggests that we can only hold a certain amount of information in it at a time, and processing too much information at once may lead to cognitive overload or forgetting.

When using Cognitive Load Theory in the classroom, ensure that you are not overloading your students’ working memory by presenting them with too much complex information in one go.

What is the Transient Information Effect?

The Transient Information Effect occurs when permanent information, such as written text, is converted into equivalent impermanent information, such as speech, resulting in reduced learning. This means that if important information disappears before students can process it, it can hinder their learning process.

There are many examples of The Transient Information Effect in the classroom that you may want to avoid. For example, giving your students long verbal instructions can overload their working memory. This is because students are trying to remember previous information while simultaneously trying to process current instructions.

A second example of The Transient Information Effect in the classroom is using PowerPoint to teach your students new concepts. PowerPoint is transient by nature, so information that has already been displayed on a previous slide disappears and gets replaced by new information on a new slide. This means that your students are not able to relate current information with what comes before or after it, making it harder to retain new information.

Maximise your students’ learning efficiency with Cognitive Load Theory training for your school staff.

What does the research say about the Transient Information Effect?

Researchers have investigated The Transient Information Effect and how it can affect student learning. The findings suggest that:

  • When learning large amounts of information, students may remember more when information is in a visual formal (which is permanent) compared to an auditory format (which is transient).
  • Many students remember more information when listening to speech broken up into chunks, compared to continuous speech.
  • Students tend to remember more information when given short, segmented animations explaining a particular process compared to long, continuous animations.

Since working memory has such a limited capacity, it is very difficult for students to retain temporary information. For this reason, The Transient Information Effect is more pronounced when students are asked to retain longer and more complex information compared to shorter and more simple information.

Overall, the research suggests that students remember information better when it is more permanent. When information is impermanent, students remember information better when it is broken up into chunks.

Final thoughts

The Transient Information Effect is a crucial part of Cognitive Load Theory and can present students with massive challenges when learning new information.

To learn how to overcome The Transient Information Effect in your classroom, download our free ebook The Most Important Cognitive Load Theory Effect That No One Talks About, written with Oliver Caviglioli…

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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