Biological evolution and human cognition are analogous information processing systems

Juan C. Castro-Alonso, Alejandro A. Hidalgo, John Sweller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The mechanisms that govern biological evolution and human cognition are analogous, as both follow the same principles of natural information processing systems. In this article, we describe the following five principles that provide an analogy between biological evolution and human cognition: (a) Randomness as Genesis Principle and (b) Borrowing and Reorganizing Principle, which indicate how natural information processing systems obtain information; (c) Narrow Limits of Change Principle and (d) Information Store Principle, which indicate how information is processed and stored; and (e) Environmental Organizing and Linking Principle, which indicate how stored information is used to generate actions appropriate to an environment. In human cognition, these analogs only apply to cognitive processes associated with biologically secondary knowledge, the knowledge typically taught in educational institutions. Based on these five principles, cognitive load theory researchers have provided diverse prescriptions to optimize instructional activities and materials. We conclude by discussing general instructional implications and future research directions based on this analogy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1330345
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • cognitive load theory
  • evolution by natural selection
  • genetic and epigenetic systems
  • human cognition and cognitive architecture
  • long-term memory and working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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