Performance Load

To put it simply performance load is “the degree of mental and physical activity required to achieve a goal” (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2010). The higher the performance load, the higher the performance time and chance for errors. Cognitive load is used to refer to the amount of mental activity and kinematic load to physical activity.

George A. Miller was the first to suggest limits in in human working memory capacity. His article The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two introduced the idea of average human memory holding only a number of objects (7 ± 2) in their working memory.

John Sweller developed the theory of cognitive load “to provide guidelines intended to assist in the presentation of information in a manner that encourages learner activities that optimize intellectual performance” (Sweller, Merrienboer, & Paas, 1998). From these theories ideas to help lighten the cognative load like “chunking” was developed.

These psychological aspects can of course also be implanted in not only a kinematic way, but also into designs. Because of mental and physical limitations, people will only put up with so much performance load before errors and time consumption force them to abandon.



Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2010). Universal principles of design, revised and updated. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Rockport Publishers.

Malamed, C. (2009). Chunking information for instructional design. Retrieved from The eLearning coach:

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Retrieved from The music animation machine:

Sweller, J., Merrienboer, J. J., & Paas, F. G. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational psychology review, 10(3), 251-296.


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