Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Professor Craig Speelman

Field of Research Code



This study investigated the ability of two physiological measures, galvanic skin response and heat flux, to reflect changes in cognitive load using a variation of the dot counting task developed by Lassaline and Logan (1993). Concurrently, the robustness of the dual processing theory of automaticity was evaluated via disruption. The utilised task was designed to create a shift from controlled to automatic processing via practice, followed by a return to controlled processing via the introduction of a 6-digit memory recognition task designed to increase working-memory load and disrupt automaticity. As reaction time has previously been demonstrated to be a reliable performance measure of cognitive load, it was expected that there would be a positive relationship between reaction time, heat flux and galvanic skin response. The results found the expected pattern for reaction time, with an increase seen at the introduction of the memory task. Group results suggested automaticity was disrupted at this point, but analysis of individual data suggested automaticity endured for the majority of participants despite the contextual change in the task. This finding provides support for Instance Theory (Logan, 1988). The expected correlation between reaction time and galvanic skin response was not seen. Reductions in reaction time due to practice were correlated with reductions in heat flux due to practice, however, the expected increase at the introduction of the memory task was not seen. Whilst neither physiological measure was found to demonstrate an increase in cognitive load in this experiment, a task that was more cognitively challenging than the 6-digit memory recognition task may have produced more substantial results.

Included in

Psychology Commons