The Reader's Limited Capacity: A Working-Memory Theory for Legal Writers
21 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2014
Date Written: October 8, 2014
In pursuit of a foundation for a number of legal writing principles, this article explores the corner of cognitive science dedicated to working memory theory. In its broadest terms, working memory theory submits that humans process new information through a limited capacity system that both stores and manipulates new information to accomplish mental tasks. Because reading necessarily consumes the working memory resource, which has finite capacity, writing lawyers must actively manage the cognitive loads that their sentences and paragraphs impose on the reader. Practical applications of this broad insight, however, prove elusive in the absence of a model that can be easily commanded by the legal writer. Accordingly, this article plumbs the precepts and vocabulary of "cognitive load theory" to offer a practical framework through which legal writers can assess the working memory demands of their sentences and paragraphs.
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