Children develop unique cognitive offloading strategy to simplify thinking

June 30, 2020

Children as young as 4 years old tend to use various cognitive aids – including notepads and apps – to simplify tasks as necessary, according to a recent study from the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia. This process is known as “cognitive offloading” – the harder a task is, the more likely an individual is to use these aids.

“We often use cognitive offloading to simplify some tasks, such as turning to calendars to remind ourselves of upcoming events or calculators when confronted with difficult mathematical problems,” said Kristy Armitage at the UQ School of Psychology.

In the study, children aged 11 years and under were asked to imagine the movement of a given object. They could either think of the answer themselves or use a turntable provided to solve the problem without using cognitive resources.

Armitage explained that many kids resorted to using the turntable “even in situations where it was redundant, offering no benefit to performance.”This shows that we have an early inclination towards offloading mental tasks.

However, Armitage also said that with increasing age, “children become better at differentiating between situations where the external strategy is beneficial and where it is redundant, showing a similar flexibility to that demonstrated by adults.” Adults, Armitage added, tend to rely on internal processing but will offload the work onto external aids in situations of high demand.


Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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