Language is a medium with which we monitor ourselves and it allows us to experience past, present and future [ 77 ]. Conceptions about oneself and others develop from an early age and depend largely on the emergence of language. Language difficulties such as pronoun reversal, use of third person perspective, impoverished inner speech, and impaired narrative have a negative effect on mental processes and also restrict certain aspects of self-awareness.
Peeters et al. Use of a third person perspective also has consequences for attribution of mental states, and mentalizing ability in general. As argued by Northoff and Heinzel [ 84 ] a third person perspective is an indication of a fragmented image of self and other.
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Adults with ASD also appear to have difficulties with first person pronoun usage [ 85 ]. Of particular interest might be the fact, that Hans Asperger often used to refer to himself from a third person perspective [ 86 ]. A fundamental role in self-awareness is attributed to inner speech [ 87 ] that is impaired in ASD [ 88 ]. When asked about the nature of their thoughts, a group of adults with Asperger syndrome reported mainly images and actions as their only inner experience and made no reference to inner speech or emotions [ 89 ].
Many individuals with ASD are visual thinkers and rely heavily on visualization to process information [ 90 ]. A recent fMRI study [ 91 ] provided evidence of underintegration of language and imaging in autism by showing that individuals with ASD are more reliant on visualization to support language comprehension.
These authors suggest that cortical underconnectivity is the reason for the lack of synchronization between linguistic and imaginal processing in autism. This study also points to a link between daydreaming and the construction of self and self-awareness. In summary, language is of fundamental significance to self-awareness and necessary for forming a clear identity of self and others.
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Another important dimension in the formation of the self that is also dependent on language is autobiographical memory as well as the construct of a narrative self. Many influential theorists [ 93 , 94 ] associate the development of self with the emergence of autobiographical or episodic memory.
The components necessary for a fully functioning autobiographical memory are a basic memory system, spoken or signed language, understanding and production of narrative, temporal understanding, self-awareness and theory of mind [ 95 ]. Autobiographical memory not only depends on these cognitive constructs but is also specifically concerned with events that have specific meaning to the individual. This personal significance evolves through emotions and motivations that are constructed in interaction with others. Autobiographical disturbances can arise from combined deficits in the realms of memory, emotion and self-related processing which are intricately connected, both behaviourally and neurologically [ 96 ].
The majority of components that make up an autobiographic memory system are impaired in autism. There is significant evidence that individuals with ASD have circumscribed episodic memory impairments, e. The prevailing view is that episodic memory is created in the neocortex and subsequently stored in the medial-temporal lobes and after a time becomes independent and is distributed in neocortical networks [ ].
Whereas the left temporal lobe is dominant for the acquisition of new verbal information, episodic information involves mainly the right fontal lobes [ , ]. Neuroimaging studies provide evidence for right frontal involvement in the processing of autobiographic memories [e. The RH is especially important for memories with emotional contents. Many theorists [e. Individuals create their own identity by constructing autobiographical narratives or life stories [ ].
Narrative emerges early in development and narrative and self are inseparable [ ]. The mechanisms responsible for each of the above dimensions are impaired in autism and as a consequence individuals with ASD have great difficulties in constructing a self-narrative. If autobiographical material cannot be provided, the narrative is disoriented and confused and in many cases is no narrative at all but only confabulation [ ], which is often the case in autism.
As a result, the narrative of individuals with ASD, and the self that is represented in this narrative, is quite vague and not representing the true self. Research evidence confirms deficits in narrative abilities in individuals with ASD [ - ]. Language and symbolic functions are localized in the left hemisphere, whereas narrative abilities are considered to be a function of the right hemisphere.
There is a significant evidence for RH contribution to social language and many of the functions associated with autobiographic memory specifically those with emotional contents.
In addition, narrative organisation depends on coordination of activity among various brain regions [ ] and as suggested by Belmonte [ ] malfunction in neural connectivity may be the underlying problem with autistic narrative. To summarize, there is substantial evidence that the main components of self-awareness including self recognition, self-other differentiation, body awareness, theory of mind, intersubjectivity, emotion processing, language pronoun reversal, inner speech, third person perspective , autobiographical memory and narrative self are impaired in ASD.
Our review of neural substrates underlying these processes has highlighted the significance of the Right Hemisphere.
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From a neural point of view the self can be viewed as a complex and dynamic representation consisting of multiple brain networks [ , ]. The origins of self begin in infancy and over the first several years of life normally developing children acquire an understanding of different dimensions of self and other. Deviant development in autism is likely to result in a cascade of developmental impairments including dysfunctional self-related processes as outlined above.
Various brain regions have been indicated in the pathogenesis of autism including frontal lobes [e. The extent of anatomical and functional abnormalities in autism points to a possible core dysfunction in neural processing. In addition, the vast amount of potential genetic risk factors suggests that multiple or all-emerging functional brain areas are affected during early development [ ].
This theory is supported by widespread growth abnormalities in the brain of children with autism [ , ].
In the following sections we will explore three neural theories implicated in the development of an atypical or different sense of self in individuals with ASD. Apart from the involvement of the RH in self-related processes a dysfunctional mirror neuron system as well as abnormal connectivity may have a role to play in the atypical developmental trajectories in ASD.
The prefrontal cortex plays a vital role in the development of the self as it generates a sense of self and facilitates many links with other parts of the brain. Cognitive neuroscience studies have shown that the RH plays a special role in personal relatedness, which is intimately linked to the development of the self. Based largely on recent neuroimaging research evidence an increasing number of cognitive neuroscientists have emphasized the specific role of the RH in self-related functions [ - ]. Specifically the right dorsomedial prefrontal cortex seems to play a critical role in the development of models of the self [ ].
This has been confirmed by several imaging studies, including a recent study of self-evaluation [ ]. As described in the previous paragraphs there is substantial research evidence that the RH may be dominant for self-awareness and self-related functions. The psychiatrist and philosopher Iain McGilchrist [ ] provided an extensive exploration of the dominance of the RH in self-related processes.
It would be another step forward if techniques were available to distinguish between the three different types of cognitive load: intrinsic, extraneous and germane.
This could also help to clear up a number of the conceptual difficulties in cognitive load theory that have been identified in this paper. It would be especially interesting to see if the distinction between intrinsic and germane load stands firm with a more precise assessment. This distinction entered cognitive load theory only at a later stage.
Intrinsic and germane load belong to different ontological categories, and if learning processes are examined in both categories quite a few similarities turn up. A return to distinguishing just between processes that do contribute to knowledge generation and processes that do not may help to avoid a number of problems with the current version of the theory. What has cognitive load theory brought to the field of educational design?
The three main recommendations that come from cognitive load theory are: present material that aligns with the prior knowledge of the learner intrinsic load , avoid non-essential and confusing information extraneous load , and stimulate processes that lead to conceptually rich and deep knowledge germane load.
These design principles have been around in educational design for a long time see e. Work in cognitive load theory often denies the existence of this earlier research, as illustrated in the following quote by Ayres a , p. In his study, Ayres introduces part-tasks as one of the initial approaches to lower cognitive load.
The value of cognitive load theory until now has certainly been in directing extra and detailed attention to characteristics of instructional designs that may not contribute to learning. This situation has also been recognized in cognitive load research itself, and a number of recent publications point to the fact that cognitive load research has shifted its attention to stimulating germane processes see e.
What cognitive load research should do now is examine germane processes and estimate which germane processes are most suited for which learners so that experienced cognitive load is optimized and cognitive overload is avoided. The great challenge will be to find load-reducing approaches for intensive knowledge producing mechanisms such as learning from multiple representations e. Combining these approaches, which strongly stimulate germane processes, with enough structure to avoid cognitive overload will most probably be one of the leading research themes in the near future de Jong ; Kirschner et al.
The great achievement of cognitive load theory is that it has created unity in a diverse set of instructional design principles and that it has described a cognitive basis underlying these principles. It should not, however, remain at the level of confirming these general principles. Rather, its role is now to move forward and try to determine 1 which instructional treatments lead to which cognitive processes and how , 2 what the corresponding effects are on memory workload and potential overload, 3 what characteristics of the learning material and the student mediate these effects and 4 how best to measure effects on working memory load in a theory-related manner.
This will give a firmer foundation to principles of instructional design theory so that they can be applied in a more dedicated, flexible, and adaptive way. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and source are credited. Skip to main content Skip to sections.
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Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Cognitive load theory, educational research, and instructional design: some food for thought. Open Access. First Online: 27 August Keyword Cognitive load theory. Introduction This article discusses cognitive load theory , a theory relating working memory characteristics and the design of instructional systems. Intrinsic cognitive load Intrinsic cognitive load relates to the difficulty of the subject matter Cooper ; Sweller and Chandler Extraneous cognitive load Extraneous cognitive load is cognitive load that is evoked by the instructional material and that does not directly contribute to learning schema construction.
Germane cognitive load Cognitive load theory sees the construction and subsequent automation of schemas as the main goal of learning see e. Can the different types of cognitive load be distinguished? Can the different types of cognitive load simply be added? Is there a difference between load and effort? The measurement of cognitive load In many studies there is no direct measurement of cognitive load; the level of cognitive load is induced from results on knowledge post-tests. Measuring cognitive load through self-reporting One of the most frequently used methods for measuring cognitive load is self-reporting, as becomes clear from the overview by Paas et al.