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Jo Pearce
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble.
Hacking Your Head
Managing Information Overload
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
What is Information Overload?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
“Surviving the collision with tomorrow…”
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
“…there are discoverable limits to the amount of
change that the human organism can absorb”
“…without first determining these limits we may
submit masses of [people] to demands they
simply cannot tolerate.”
Alvin Toffler
(Future Shock, 1970)
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Information Overload
Anxiety
Hostility
Senseless Violence
Physical Illness
Depression
Apathy
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Orientation Response
Pupils dilate…
Hearing becomes more acute…
Muscles tense…
Blood rushes to the head…
Breathing and heart rate alter…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
A soldier falls asleep “while a storm of machine gun bullets
splattered around him” not due to physical tiredness, but a
“sense of overpowering apathy”.
Soldiers became hypersensitive and would “hit the dirt” at the
slightest stimuli, increasingly showing anxiety and anger at the
slightest inconvenience.
The effects of overload in WWII
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The overwhelming office?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
“…the [orientation response] occurs not
merely in response to simple sensory
inputs.
It happens when we come across novel
ideas or information as well…”
Alvin Toffler
(Future Shock, 1970)
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
20 million words of new technical
information are recorded each day.
Jackson, W. (2001). Information overload and managerial roles: A naturalistic study of engineers.
At 1000 words/minute, 8 hours/day this is six weeks of reading.
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
After reading the information for that one day
you would have fallen behind by 5.5 years!
Jackson, W. (2001). Information overload and managerial roles: A naturalistic study of engineers.
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Information Fatigue Syndrome
Poor Concentration Hurry Sickness
Pervasive Hostility
Stress
Depression
Lowered Immune Response
“Burn out”
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
There is always a lot to learn
Information overload is a learning problem!
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
How do we learn?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Working Memory Long Term Memory
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Working Memory
Processes Information
Active Thinking & Learning
Comprises visual & auditory subcomponents
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Long Term Memory
Enormous Capacity
Cannot engage in thinking or learning processes
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Results of learning
Knowledge Retrieval
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Attention
Elaboration-Rehearsal
Encoding
The Learning Process
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Attention is critical to processing information.
“In 1972 an Eastern Airlines flight crashed…as a result of cockpit distractions.
The crew became so preoccupied with a malfunction that no one noticed the
altimeter reading or warnings until it was too late…”
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
We can help focus attention with cues and signals.
e.g.
“It is important to note that…”
Bullet points!
Paragraphs and Headings
Visual indicators
Signalling language -
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Modality Effect
👁
"🔊
+
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Elaboration-Rehearsal helps promote Automaticity.
Writing
Reading
Speaking
Skills that become automatic require little or no
processing in the working memory. Such as :
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Encoding : Schemas
Multiple Elements Single Schema
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Novice Learner Schemas
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Experienced Learner Schemas
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Understanding Our Limitations
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical Number 7 ± 2
(George A. Miller, 1956)
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical Number 7 ± 2
(George A. Miller, 1956)
Working Memory
Information In
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical Number 7 ± 2
(George A. Miller, 1956)
Overloaded Working Memory
Information In
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
The Magical (but finite) Number X?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Schema=
Novice Experienced
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
How do we work with our
limitations?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Cognitive Science 12 (2), June 1988John Sweller
“Cognitive load during problem solving:
Effects on learning”.
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Cognitive Load Theory
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Defines cognitive load as the total amount of mental
effort being used in the working memory

Describes a universal set of evidence-based principles for
managing cognitive load that lead to efficient learning.
What is Cognitive Load Theory?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Total cognitive load is comprised of three types:
Intrinsic Load
Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load
Germane (Relevant) Load
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed.
e.g.
Learning to juggle 10 balls is inherently more
complex than learning to juggle 3.
Intrinsic Load
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed.
Manage by breaking large tasks into smaller ones!
Intrinsic Load
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Epic
User Story
TaskTaskTask
User Story
TaskTaskTask
User Story
TaskTaskTask
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irrelevant to the goal.
Coping with a loud environment
Unfamiliarity with a development tool
Unreadable code
e.g.
Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Try working somewhere quieter…
…or wearing headphones?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Reduce the number of tools or libraries to a minimum…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Paragraphs of code
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Paragraphs of code
Use appropriate whitespace and line breaks as cues…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
“Code tells you how, comments tell you why”.
Jeff Atwood
@codinghorror
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Good comments signal that all is not as
straightforward as it might appear…
⁉
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Maintain consistency without the load of learning a style-guide…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load
Reducing irrelevant load focuses attention
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Beneficial load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an overall goal.
Repetition and context variation give us the skills to
apply knowledge in a wider variety of situations.
Germane (Relevant) Load
Essential for complex schema creation
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Repetition = Practice
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Context Variation
Tree?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
How about a different context?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Goal : Understand existing codebase.
👍
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Develop more flexible schemas through pairing…
This can leverage the modality effect…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Germane (Relevant) Load
Elaborate and rehearse existing schemas
Encode new information
Promote automaticity
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
We constantly need to learn…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Cognitive psychology can tell
us how we learn...
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
But it also tells us that there are
limits to our ability to learn…
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Manage
Intrinsic
Load
Increase
Relevant
Load
+
Reduce
Irrelevant
Load
+
= Efficient Learning & Increased Productivity
Cognitive Load Theory
Jo Pearce
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble.
Thanks!
Any questions?
Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload
@jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
Bibliography
“Future Shock”
- Alvin Toffler
“Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load”
- Ruth Colvin Clark; Frank Nguyen; John Sweller
“Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement”
- Ruth Colvin Clark
“Cognitive Psychology”
- Michael Eysenck; Mark T. Keane

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Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload (extended)

  • 1. Jo Pearce @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble. Hacking Your Head Managing Information Overload
  • 2. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk What is Information Overload?
  • 3. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk “Surviving the collision with tomorrow…”
  • 4. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk “…there are discoverable limits to the amount of change that the human organism can absorb” “…without first determining these limits we may submit masses of [people] to demands they simply cannot tolerate.” Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, 1970)
  • 5. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Information Overload Anxiety Hostility Senseless Violence Physical Illness Depression Apathy
  • 6. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Orientation Response Pupils dilate… Hearing becomes more acute… Muscles tense… Blood rushes to the head… Breathing and heart rate alter…
  • 7. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk A soldier falls asleep “while a storm of machine gun bullets splattered around him” not due to physical tiredness, but a “sense of overpowering apathy”. Soldiers became hypersensitive and would “hit the dirt” at the slightest stimuli, increasingly showing anxiety and anger at the slightest inconvenience. The effects of overload in WWII
  • 8. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  • 9. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The overwhelming office?
  • 10. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk “…the [orientation response] occurs not merely in response to simple sensory inputs. It happens when we come across novel ideas or information as well…” Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, 1970)
  • 11. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk 20 million words of new technical information are recorded each day. Jackson, W. (2001). Information overload and managerial roles: A naturalistic study of engineers. At 1000 words/minute, 8 hours/day this is six weeks of reading.
  • 12. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk After reading the information for that one day you would have fallen behind by 5.5 years! Jackson, W. (2001). Information overload and managerial roles: A naturalistic study of engineers.
  • 13. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Information Fatigue Syndrome Poor Concentration Hurry Sickness Pervasive Hostility Stress Depression Lowered Immune Response “Burn out”
  • 14. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  • 15. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  • 16. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk There is always a lot to learn Information overload is a learning problem!
  • 17. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk How do we learn?
  • 18. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Working Memory Long Term Memory
  • 19. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Working Memory Processes Information Active Thinking & Learning Comprises visual & auditory subcomponents
  • 20. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Long Term Memory Enormous Capacity Cannot engage in thinking or learning processes
  • 21. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Results of learning Knowledge Retrieval
  • 22. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Attention Elaboration-Rehearsal Encoding The Learning Process
  • 23. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Attention is critical to processing information. “In 1972 an Eastern Airlines flight crashed…as a result of cockpit distractions. The crew became so preoccupied with a malfunction that no one noticed the altimeter reading or warnings until it was too late…”
  • 24. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk We can help focus attention with cues and signals. e.g. “It is important to note that…” Bullet points! Paragraphs and Headings Visual indicators Signalling language -
  • 25. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Modality Effect 👁 "🔊 +
  • 26. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Elaboration-Rehearsal helps promote Automaticity. Writing Reading Speaking Skills that become automatic require little or no processing in the working memory. Such as :
  • 27. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Encoding : Schemas Multiple Elements Single Schema
  • 28. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  • 29. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Novice Learner Schemas
  • 30. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Experienced Learner Schemas
  • 31. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Understanding Our Limitations
  • 32. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956)
  • 33. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956) Working Memory Information In
  • 34. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956) Overloaded Working Memory Information In
  • 35. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk The Magical (but finite) Number X?
  • 36. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Schema= Novice Experienced
  • 37. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk How do we work with our limitations?
  • 38. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Cognitive Science 12 (2), June 1988John Sweller “Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning”.
  • 39. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Cognitive Load Theory
  • 40. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Defines cognitive load as the total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory Describes a universal set of evidence-based principles for managing cognitive load that lead to efficient learning. What is Cognitive Load Theory?
  • 41. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Total cognitive load is comprised of three types: Intrinsic Load Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load Germane (Relevant) Load
  • 42. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed. e.g. Learning to juggle 10 balls is inherently more complex than learning to juggle 3. Intrinsic Load
  • 43. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed. Manage by breaking large tasks into smaller ones! Intrinsic Load
  • 44. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Epic User Story TaskTaskTask User Story TaskTaskTask User Story TaskTaskTask
  • 45. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irrelevant to the goal. Coping with a loud environment Unfamiliarity with a development tool Unreadable code e.g. Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load
  • 46. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Try working somewhere quieter… …or wearing headphones?
  • 47. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Reduce the number of tools or libraries to a minimum…
  • 48. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk
  • 49. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Paragraphs of code
  • 50. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Paragraphs of code Use appropriate whitespace and line breaks as cues…
  • 51. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk “Code tells you how, comments tell you why”. Jeff Atwood @codinghorror
  • 52. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Good comments signal that all is not as straightforward as it might appear… ⁉
  • 53. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Maintain consistency without the load of learning a style-guide…
  • 54. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load Reducing irrelevant load focuses attention
  • 55. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Beneficial load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an overall goal. Repetition and context variation give us the skills to apply knowledge in a wider variety of situations. Germane (Relevant) Load Essential for complex schema creation
  • 56. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Repetition = Practice
  • 57. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Context Variation Tree?
  • 58. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk How about a different context?
  • 59. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Goal : Understand existing codebase. 👍
  • 60. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Develop more flexible schemas through pairing… This can leverage the modality effect…
  • 61. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Germane (Relevant) Load Elaborate and rehearse existing schemas Encode new information Promote automaticity
  • 62. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk We constantly need to learn…
  • 63. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Cognitive psychology can tell us how we learn...
  • 64. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk But it also tells us that there are limits to our ability to learn…
  • 65. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Manage Intrinsic Load Increase Relevant Load + Reduce Irrelevant Load + = Efficient Learning & Increased Productivity Cognitive Load Theory
  • 66. Jo Pearce @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble. Thanks! Any questions?
  • 67. Hacking Your Head : Managing Information Overload @jdpearce jopearce.co.uk Bibliography “Future Shock” - Alvin Toffler “Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load” - Ruth Colvin Clark; Frank Nguyen; John Sweller “Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement” - Ruth Colvin Clark “Cognitive Psychology” - Michael Eysenck; Mark T. Keane