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I don't understand this theory that states there are only three kinds of mental loads:

The theory is that there are basically three different kinds of demands or loads that you can make on a person: Cognitive (thinking and remembering), Visual, and Motor.

Source, Posted on February 17, 2011 by Susan Weinschenk.

What about things like listening to someone speak? Or if someone's learning to play a musical instrument and is trying to hit the right note. Is this only in the context of interaction design.

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The source you mention is a web blog about computer and office work. The blog doesn't describe a 'theory', not even a hypothesis for that matter, it just outlines a starting point for a popular scientific blog on cognitive load in everyday life. It all depends on the task what adds mental load. Every input, let it be acoustic (e.g. speech), visual (e.g. computer tasks), touch or internal mental processes can all increase cognitive load.

I can recommend reading the wiki page on cognitive load as a starting point to better understand different aspects of cognitive load theory.

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I'm a current PhD student in Cognitive Load Theory, and I have to agree with @Christiaan above, the article you refer to is just a blog, and doesn't refer to any theory specifically.

IF the article is referring to Cognitive Load Theory itself, then there are 3 described types of cognitive load.

  1. Intrinsic Load - The load for how innately difficult the task is to the learner (this varies based on previous expertise).
  2. Extraneous Load - The load for how effective the instructional strategy or materials being presented are (bad instructions from a teacher or poorlly designed worksheets increase this type of load).
  3. Germane Load - the load devoted to actual learning, that is information processing, integration and schema acquisition.

Your article mentions different sensory inputs, and while there are aspects of CLT that relate to different types of sensory input, they aren't ever referred to as 'kinds of cognitive load'. If anything these may be referred to as 'working memory channels' based on Baddeley & Hitch's model of working memory.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome @monotreme, this is a good answer! It would be even better if you could add links & references to further information from your area of study. $\endgroup$ – Krysta Aug 16 '16 at 12:34
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    $\begingroup$ Someone can do a google search for CLT and find references. This is a Q&A, not a peer-reviewed journal :) $\endgroup$ – theMayer Aug 17 '16 at 14:43

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