Skip to main content


In a study that aimed to empirically investigate the “pause effect” on cognitive load and performance, researchers gave medical students the ability to pause a simulation of an emergency medical situation while tracking their pupil sizes. (“Since pupil dilation is controlled by the autonomous nervous system, it reveals some aspects of cognitive load that subjective ratings cannot capture,” p. 9.) Participants also self-reported their cognitive load before, during, and after the exercises. About half of the learners didn’t use the pause button, even when overloaded, which is consistent with previous studies that found that learners are not able to identify when to pause a video or e-learning module.

Key Finding

This is another study that suggests instructional designers and instructors should help prevent learners’ cognitive overload by segmenting content into chunks for them or pausing for reflection.

Read More (open access)

Lee, J.Y., Donkers, J., Jarodzka, H., Sellenraad, G., & van Merrienboer, J.J.G. (2020). Different effects of pausing on cognitive load in a medical simulation game. Computers in Human Behavior, 110.

Subscribe to Learning Science Weekly

This article review and summary was included in Learning Science Weekly, a weekly newsletter published by the researchers in Intellum's Learning Science department. If you'd like more recommendations on how you can apply findings from the learning sciences into your practice, subscribe today!

Did this article help?

Let us know by leaving a star rating or review at the top of this article.