Exploring the relationship between emotion and cognitive load types during patient handovers

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2021 May 26. doi: 10.1007/s10459-021-10053-y. Online ahead of print.


Cognitive Load Theory has emerged as an important approach to improving instruction in the health professions workplace, including patient handovers. At the same time, there is growing recognition that emotion influences learning through numerous cognitive processes including motivation, attention, working memory, and long-term memory. This study explores how emotion influences the cognitive load experienced by trainees performing patient handovers. From January to March 2019, 693 (38.7%) of 1807 residents and fellows from a 24-hospital health system in New York city completed a survey after performing a handover. Participants rated their emotional state and cognitive load. The survey included questions about features of the learner, task, and instructional environment. The authors used factor analysis to identify the core dimensions of emotion. Regression analyses explored the relationship between the emotion factors and cognitive load types. Two emotion dimensions were identified representing invigoration and tranquility. In regression analyses, higher levels of invigoration, tranquility, and their interaction were independently associated with lower intrinsic load and extraneous load. The interaction of invigoration and tranquility predicted lower germane load. The addition of the emotion variables to multivariate models including other predictors of cognitive load types significantly increased the amount of variance explained. The study provides a model for measuring emotions in workplace learning. Because emotion appears to have a significant influence on cognitive load types, instructional designers should consider strategies that help trainees regulate emotion in order to reduce cognitive load and improve learning and performance.

Keywords: Circumplex model of affect; Cognitive load theory; Cognitive load types; Emotion; Emotion dimensions; Factor analysis; Handover, Handoff; Measurement; Medical education; Patient safety.