Cognitive Demands of New Technologies and the Implications for Learning Theory

Richard J. Torraco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The cognitive demands of new technologies are poorly understood because the technologies themselves are not well understood and because refinements are needed in the methods used to study their cognitive demands. This article defines specific characteristics of tasks involving the use of new technologies and identifies the cognitive demands of these tasks. Then, the article examines how well four learning theories—those of Scribner, Schon, Wenger, and Hutchins—address these cognitive demands. A central contention of this article is that relatively few learning theories that have been applied to work settings fully capture the behavioral and environmental dynamics of learning and working. These four theories are shown to provide meaningful explanations of how such learning occurs, and their distinctive theoretical properties are identified. The implications of this study for further research on workplace learning and learning theory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-467
Number of pages29
JournalHuman Resource Development Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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