Effects of learning item difficulty and value on cognitive offloading during middle childhood

Xiaoxiao Dong, Yan Liu (Corresponding Author), Huijing Lu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The storage of information in external tools (e.g., notebook, cellphone) has become increasingly common. Some researchers have defined this behavior as cognitive offloading, which is a type of learning strategy. Studies have indicated that as age increases, children become increasingly capable of calibrating their learning strategies according to the difficulty of learning items. The value of items is also essential in people’s daily learning. However, how children apply both cues of item difficulty and item value for cognitive offloading to regulate their learning process remains unclear. In three studies, we investigated children’s offloading of learning items by manipulating these items’ difficulty and value (Study 1), value alone with difficulty being unvaried (Study 2), and difficulty and value with an emphasis on value (Study 3). The results indicate that children aged 11 years used difficulty cues alone for cognitive offloading when both difficulty and value cues were presented. However, when difficulty was controlled and value was emphasized, the 11-year-old children adopted cognitive offloading strategies based on value cues. The three studies revealed the conditions under which children in middle childhood apply cues of the item value, which are goal-driven cues, for cognitive offloading and provided methods for encouraging children to simultaneously apply item difficulty cues, which are data-driven cues, and item value cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1097-1115
Number of pages19
JournalMetacognition and Learning
Issue number3
Early online dateJun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Cognitive offloading
  • Difficulty
  • Metacognitive control
  • Middle childhood
  • Value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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