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Some Studies on Desirable Difficulties

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From channel factors to nudges, research has repeatedly shown that an effective way to encourage behavior change is to make that behavior easier. Similarly, adding difficulty via cognitive load generally reduces performance across a large number of mental activities. This has led many psychologists and educators to conclude that a primary route to facilitating successful cognition is to simplify tasks and make them easier. However, there are times where making things easy can reduce cognitive performance, undermine motivation, and lead to metacognitive mis-calibration. This talk reviews some studies from my lab over the past half a dozen years on desirable difficulties – when increased difficulty improves performance and educational achievement.

This talk is part of the Psychology & Education series.

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