A test of the cognitive load hypothesis: Investigating the impact of number of nonverbal cues coded and length of coding session on observer accuracy

Betty H. La France, Alan D. Heisel, Michael J. Beatty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


In their meta-analysis investigating the relationship between extraversion and nonverbal behavior La France, Heisel, and Beatty (2004) found a substantial negative correlation between effect size and sample size, which they explained using the cognitive load hypothesis. The cognitive load hypothesis predicts that increases in coding scheme complexity result in greater opportunities for observer error. To test this hypothesis, the impact of coding scheme complexity on observer error was assessed via varying the number of nonverbal cues coded and the length of observational coding session. The decision to increase the number of nonverbal cues observers coded created 26% more errors, and over time observers made 10% more errors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-23
Number of pages13
JournalCommunication Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 20 2007
Externally publishedYes



  • Coding scheme
  • Cognitive load
  • Meta-analysis
  • Nonverbal communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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