Limited Attention Capacity and Cognition

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The chapter is part of a Point-Counterpoint (with Robinson, this volume), exploring the Limited Attention Capacity (LAC) and Cognition Hypotheses (CH) as alternative accounts of second language task performance. It starts by presenting five principles which underlie the LAC, covering memory and attentional functioning; the dimensions of performance; the role of research on task characteristics and conditions; the linkage with Levelt’s model of speaking; and the notion of, and influences on task difficulty. Then a survey is presented of the empirical work that is relevant to the LAC, organised in terms of the stages of the Levelt Model. Next, the Cognition Hypothesis is described, particularly resource-directing and resource-dispersing features, and the hypothesis is critiqued, both in relation to the constructs of the model and in relation to relevant evidence. This leads to a comparison between the two approaches, regarding hinterland, regarding how influences on second language task performance are analysed, and regarding what the two approaches say, or do not say, about acquisition. Finally some suggestions are made as to how the two approaches may be brought into resolution, at least to some degree.


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