Edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen and Mohammad Javad Ahmadian
[Task-Based Language Teaching 13] 2019
► pp. 153–182
Chapter 7. The effects of reasoning demands on Chinese EFL learners’ oral performance and cognitive processes
Despite their difference in approaches to explaining the accuracy-complexity relationship, the Limited Attention Capacity Hypothesis (Skehan, 1998, 2001, 2009a, 2014) and the Cognition Hypothesis (Robinson, 2001, 2007, 2011) share the assumption that increased cognitive complexity will affect learners’ task performance. Although there has been much research related to the above hypotheses, the findings have not been consistent. In addition, most studies fail to provide empirical evidence of the effects of cognitive complexity on learners’ cognitive processes (Révész, 2014; Skehan, 2014). This chapter aims to explore the effects of reasoning demands on Chinese EFL learners’ oral performance and cognitive processes. Thirty-four participants were asked to complete two narrative tasks with different reasoning demands – one simple and one more complex, under the same planning conditions. Their performance was measured in terms of complexity, accuracy, lexis, and fluency (CALF). Ten participants also engaged in stimulated recall as a means of eliciting reports of their cognitive processes. Results reveal that: (a) reasoning demand does not have a significant effect on learners’ oral performance in terms of CALF; (b) learners show a slightly lower percentage of cognitive processes at the stage of conceptualization and formulation and a higher percentage linked to comprehension/monitoring in the complex task, which might indicate they allocate attention differently in the more demanding task; (c) learners’ fluency in oral performance is likely to be jointly affected by the cognitive processes at all the stages of speech production. Accuracy seems to be most enhanced by learners’ form monitoring at the comprehension stage.