Information processing is a central component of modern work. Whether at an office, a surveillance unit (air traffic control, industrial monitoring), at the driver’s cab of a modern transportation device (airplane, train or car) or at the checkout of a supermarket, the user of modern technology has to process more and more information in less and less time due to the rapid technical development. In many cases, the demands that arise exceed human information processing capacity. Many moderating variables such as age, fatigue, stress, or lack of motivation can impair a person’s ability to absorb information correctly and translate it into adequate action. Overload of the individual processing capacity as well as distraction by irrelevant environmental stimuli are central causes for the errors, not only in human-machine interaction. The consequences of this are both an increased risk of accidents and losses in the efficiency of the interaction with our environment.
In the research area “Information Processing”, mechanisms and principles of human information processing are investigated. The spectrum of basic research ranges from the selective allocation of attention and short-term storage to the preparation of actions. The modulation of these processes by cognitive factors is the second focus of this research topic. A major goal of these projects is the implementation of psychological experiments with a strong relation to specific requirements at the workplace.
The capacity of human information processing is limited. Consequently, a continuous stream of signals relevant for later actions must be selected and buffered in a short-term or working memory. In addition, goal-directed behavior requires adaptation of the stored information to changing environmental conditions. The junior research group investigates the basics of these selection processes. Of central interest is the question of what happens to non-attended information in working memory. Can we intentionally suppress or forget irrelevant information? If this is the case, can this process be trained and consequently optimized?
Processes of perception and information processing are influenced by cognitions. For example, how fast and how well we process a task depends on how much we can or want to concentrate on the task, whether we have to process several tasks in parallel and how we evaluate the respective task. Thus, tasks and work environments should be designed in such a way that cognitive factors have the most positive effects possible on performance and personal well-being.