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.
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, we investigate how the described attention and memory processes occur in the processing of multimodal information. The focus here is primarily on research on the integration of visual and auditory information.
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.