Information Processing

Principle investigators:

Dr. Daniel Schneider
Prof. Dr. Edmund Wascher

Information processing is a central part of modern work. Whether at the office workstation, a surveillance unit (air traffic control, industrial surveillance), the cab of a modern transport device (airplane, train, or car) or at the register of a supermarket, the user of modern technology is confronted with an increasing amount of information to be processed in less time, due to the rapid technical development. The requirements involved in many cases exceed the capacity of human information processing. The overload of one’s individual processing capacity as well as distraction by irrelevant environmental stimuli are central causes for the emergence of errors, not only in the human-machine-interaction. This results in an increased risk for accidents and in a decrease of the efficiency with which people operate in their environment.

The research topic “Information processing” refers to the examination of the mechanisms and principles of human information processing. The spectrum of research covers aspects such as the basic mechanisms underlying selective attention, short-term storage, and the preparation of goal-directed actions as well as cognitive factors that might influence these basic mechanisms.

Working memory (Junior Research Group)

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?

Cognitive factors influencing information processing

Processes of perception and information processing are influenced by cognitions. For example, how quickly and how well we perform a task depends on how much we can focus on it, how we evaluate it and what assumptions we make about the context. Based on this research, tasks and work environments will be designed in a way that allows for cognitive factors to optimally affect performance and well-being.