Effects of Task Complexity Increase on Computer-Mediated L2 Writing and Temporal Distribution of Cognitive and Metacognitive Processes

Document Type : Research Article


English Department, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran


This study examined the effects of cognitive task complexity increase on the complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF) as well as the temporal distribution of the cognitive and metacognitive processes involved in computer-mediated L2 written production. To this end, the study employed a between-subjects experimental design with 85 EFL learners from a language learning institute in Iran. Participants were assigned to one of 3 groups: low-, medium-, and high-complexity groups. Each group performed one of the 3 computer-mediated letter writing tasks of varying levels of complexity, from the lowest level (low-complexity) to the highest level (high-complexity) of cognitive demand. Participants were also asked to complete L2 writing Cognitive Processes Scale (CPS) and Metacognitive Processes Scale (MPS) to measure the differentials in time and attention allocated to these processes by the participants in each group. Results revealed that the increases of task complexity (1) affected the fluency positively and the accuracy negatively, with no significant effects on the complexity; (2) directed the participants’ attention more toward the processes such as task formulation and generation of new ideas, which could help them manage the conceptual pressure imposed; and (3) contrary to the assumptions, directed the participants’ attention away from the processes such as thinking about language aspects, which could direct their attention to the linguistic aspects of the tasks. Implications are discussed and avenues for future research are outlined.


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