Information processing is a central part of modern work. Whether it's at an office desk, in a surveillance unit (such as air traffic control or industrial monitoring), at the controls of a modern transportation vehicle (such as an airplane, train, or car), or at a supermarket checkout - due to rapid technological advancements, users nowadays are required to process more information in less time than ever before. The demands often exceed the capacity of human information processing. Various moderating factors such as age, fatigue, stress, or lack of motivation can impair the ability of humans to accurately perceive and respond to information. Overloading of individual processing capacity and distraction by environmental stimuli are central causes of errors in human-machine interaction and can lead to increased accident risks and decreased efficiency.
In the Information Processing research unit, mechanisms and principles of human information processing are investigated. The range of basic research extends from focusing attention on specific content to the temporary storage of information and the preparation of appropriate actions. The second focus in this field is the modulation of these processes by cognitive influencing factors. An important goal of these projects is the implementation of psychological experiments with a strong relevance to specific requirements in the work environment.
Selective information processing
The capacity of human information processing is limited. Therefore, from a continuous stream of signals, those that are relevant for future actions must be selected and stored in short-term or working memory. In addition, goal-directed behavior requires the adaptation of stored information to changing environmental conditions. The research group investigates the fundamentals of these selection processes. Furthermore, the question of what happens to the irrelevant or non-selected information is important. Can irrelevant information be deliberately suppressed or forgotten? In addition to this, the team investigates how the described attention and memory processes interact during the processing of multisensory information. The focus here is primarily on research regarding the integration of visual and auditory information. By creating lab-based multisensory scenarios, this line of work aims at obtaining a more realistic understanding of how attention and working memory operate in real-world environments which frequently require us to link information across sensory modalities. As part of this research topic, the researchers also investigate the role of attention and working memory for audiovisual speech processing in multi-talker scenarios in collaboration with the networking group aging.
In many situations in today's work environments, we are faced with high demands on our information processing abilities. For example, driving a vehicle or working with a computer requires simultaneous analysis of a variety of perceptual stimuli. These high demands are met by a processing system that is limited in its capacity. In the field of visual-spatial information processing, previous studies have shown that only 3-4 units of information can be stored simultaneously in working memory.
Cognitive psychological theories describe working memory as a mechanism that allows for the active maintenance of transient information for higher cognitive operations. Therefore, the representation of relevant information in working memory is a prerequisite for intentional interaction with our environment. The researchers are investigating the neural mechanisms that guarantee the persistent representation of action-relevant information in working memory. Thus, in the first place, the selection and storage of perceptual information (visual, auditory, and audiovisual) is investigated. However, attention can also be directed towards mental representations in working memory. This serves to align the contents of working memory in favor of relevant information and enables adaptation of behavior to a dynamic environment. In this context, the team investigates the neurocognitive mechanisms responsible for the reorganization of contents in working memory. In another research project, the group further looks into the role of cognitive control processes for the selective retrieval of information from episodic memory.
An essential part of this research is data collection based on electroencephalography (EEG) and (in the near future) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
- Klatt L-I, Begau A, Schneider D, Wascher E, Getzmann S: Cross-modal interactions at the audiovisual cocktail-party revealed by behavior, ERPs, and neural oscillations. NeuroImage 271: 120022 (2023) (17 pp)
- Getzmann S, Schneider D, Wascher E: Selective spatial attention in lateralized multi-talker speech perception: EEG correlates and the role of age. Neurobiol Aging 126: 1-13 (2023)
- Begau A, Arnau S, Klatt L-I, Wascher E, Getzmann S: Using visual speech at the cocktail-party: CNV evidence for early speech extraction in younger and older adults. Hear Res 426: 108636 (2022) (14 pp)
- Begau A, Klatt L-I, Schneider D, Wascher E, Getzmann S: The role of informational content of visual speech in an audiovisual cocktail party: Evidence from cortical oscillations in young and old participants. Eur J Neurosci 58: 5215-5234 (2022)
- Liegel N, Schneider D, Wascher E, Arnau S: Task prioritization modulates alpha, theta and beta EEG dynamics reflecting proactive cognitive control. Sci Rep 12 (1): 15072 (2022) (15 pp)
- Rösner M, Sabo M, Klatt L-I, Wascher E, Schneider D: Preparing for the unknown: How working memory provides a link between perception and anticipated action. NeuroImage 260: 119466 (2022) (16 pp)
- Klatt L-I, Getzmann S, Schneider D: Attentional modulations of alpha power are sensitive to the task-relevance of auditory spatial information. Cortex 153: 1-20 (2022)
- Sabo M, Schneider D: Pattern reinstatement and attentional control overlap during episodic long-term memory retrieval. Sci Rep 12(1): 10739 (2022) (17 pp)
- Schneider D, Herbst SK, Klatt L-I, Wöstmann M: Target enhancement or distractor suppression? Functionally distinct alpha oscillations form the basis of attention. Eur J Neurosci 55: 3256–3265 (2022)
Perception and information processing processes are influenced by cognitive factors. How quickly and how well we process a task depends, for example, on how much we can or want to concentrate on the task, whether we must work on multiple tasks simultaneously, and how we evaluate the processed task. Based on the findings of this research, tasks and work environments should be designed in a way that cognitive factors have the most positive effects on subjective performance and well-being.
The extent to which individuals utilize their mental resources during a task depends on many internal and external factors. For example, interruptions and concurrent tasks can impair the cognitive resources available for a primary task. Another (cognitive) influencing factor on information processing is assumptions about and evaluations of tasks. These factors and their impact on cognitive performance are examined here, based on psychological experiments with concurrent measurement of electroencephalography (EEG).
A key objective of these projects is to implement psychological experiments with a strong relevance to specific demands in the workplace. The experiments are adapted under laboratory conditions in such a way that they, for example, replicate specific demands of the work of nursing staff in clinics or the driving of a motor vehicle.
- Rösner M, Zickerick B, Sabo M, Schneider D: Aging impairs primary task resumption and attentional control processes following interruptions. Behav Brain Res 430: 113932 (2022)
- Zickerick B, Rösner M, Sabo M, Schneider D: How to refocus attention on working memory representations following interruptions - Evidence from frontal theta and posterior alpha oscillations. Eur J Neurosci 54: 7820-7838 (2021)
- Arnau S, Brümmer T, Liegel N, Wascher E: Inverse effects of time-on-task in task-related and task-unrelated theta activity. Psychophysiology 58: e13805 (2021) (15 pp)
- Zickerick B, Kobald SO, Thönes S, Küper K, Wascher E, Schneider D: Don't stop me now: Hampered retrieval of action plans following interruptions. Psychophysiology 58: e13725 (2021) (17 pp)
- Thönes S, Arnau S, Wascher E, Schneider D: Boosting working memory with accelerated clocks. NeuroImage 226: 117601 (2021) (12 pp)
- Zickerick B, Thönes S, Kobald SO, Wascher E, Schneider D, Küper K: Differential effects of interruptions and distractions on working memory processes in an ERP study. Front Hum Neurosci 14: 84 (2020) (13 pp)