The imagination effect increases with an increased intrinsic cognitive load

Wayne Leahy*, John Sweller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Citations (Scopus)


The imagination effect occurs when learners imagining a procedure or concept perform better on a subsequent test than learners studying rather than imagining. Cognitive load theory explains this result by postulating that information is more likely to be transferred from working to long-term memory under imagination conditions. In an experiment using elementary school students, it was hypothesised that the imagination effect would be larger using more complex, high intrinsic cognitive load information rather than less complex, low intrinsic cognitive load information because assistance in transferring information to long-term memory provided by the imagination procedure is less important using simpler materials. Experimental results supported this hypothesis. It was concluded that imagination instructions are more likely to enhance learning when associated with complex information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-283
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

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