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Realistic Depictions

With digital media, content can be visualized with an unprecedented degree of realism. A current example are interactive virtual environments that are viewed using virtual reality glasses. Characteristics of such forms of presenting learning content are that on the one hand they have a high degree of similarity to real situations and events, but on the other hand they differ systematically from reality, for example by showing scenes from unusual spatial perspectives or stretching event sequences by means of slow motion. The consequences of these similarities and differences between representation and reality for cognitive processing, for the acquisition of knowledge and for the understanding of facts are at the centre of the research of the working group. Research questions in this regard include, for example: Are learners aware of the differences between representation and reality? Does understanding realistic representations require special media skills and if so, how can these be taught? Under what conditions is a high degree of realism conducive to knowledge acquisition and under what conditions are systematic deviations more appropriate for learning? Realistic representations are not only increasingly being incorporated into formal teaching, but are also widely used in informal learning settings due to their vividness and their often entertaining appearance. Accordingly, empirical studies of the working group not only take place in the laboratory but also in the field of museums and exhibitions.

Team Realistic Depictions


Causality Heuristics in Resolving Ambiguous Situations

In times of fake news, it is particularly important to understand when and why people may believe in unconfirmed or suspected information. Here, we address the question of how people deal with possible causal explanations (e.g. in news headlines), that are – up to today - unexplained. When are (confirmed) facts being valued and treated differently than mere suspicions? And when do different stages of certainty of explanations may become blurred?

Cognitive processes in digital immersive environments

Information for example in museum contexts often is presented in immersive digital environments. The project examines the influence of these rooms on basic cognitive aspects of perception and information processing: Is there a difference in viewing duration or the subjective flow of time in rooms of varying size? And do the rooms influence the processing of information presented in these environments?

Conveying conflicting scientific topics in exhibitions: Development and optimization of an exhibition prototype and a museum-related wiki

The aim of this knowledge transfer project is to draw on empirical evidence to design and implement a prototypical exhibition space in the Deutsches Museum, where museum visitors can encounter conflicting information on a current science topic. In addition, an evidence-based, practice-oriented wiki on the subject of presenting conflicting information in museums and exhibitions will be developed.

Experiencing biodiversity - How nature research benefits from interactive web maps on your own doorstep

How do different ways of visualization of the spatial distribution of animal species affect the acquisition of competence and knowledge as well as the citizen science commitment? The project "Experience biodiversity" is investigating this question. To this end, we develop an online portal that offers citizen scientists extended possibilities for analysing and evaluating their data on bird sightings.

Learning with 3D reconstructions

The project 'Learning with 3D reconstructions' examines the influence of visual and auditive types of presentations on cognitive processing of archaeological 3D reconstructions and concentrates, among other things, on the depiction of uncertain information.

Linking perceptual animacy to visual attention

Human observers tend to perceive simple geometric shapes that move spatio-temporarilly coordinated as if they were alive (Heider & Simmel, 1944, The American Journal of Psychology, 57, 243-259). This phenomenon is called perceptual animacy. Although perceptual animacy has been studied for over 60 years, it has not yet been linked to other psychological concepts such as attention. This research gap arises from difficulties in quantifying animate impressions.

Long-term memory for audio-visual events

In most situations, human perception combines information from different modalities. Whereas recent research has highlighted that information streams from different modalities are capable of influencing each other, the formation of long-term memory representations from different modalities remains understudied. The central discussion within this field addresses the question whether information from different sensory modalities are integrated with each other and result in a joint representation (integration) or whether the distinct modalities are encoded and stored independently of each other (dual coding).

Perception of multimodal events

Multimodal information is capable of changing the perception and interpretation of visual events. For instance, a display that is perceived as two discs streaming past each other when presented in isolation switches to two discs bouncing of each other when a tone or a tactile stimulus coincides with the visual event. The theoretical explanation behind this phenomenon is controversial; cognitive (e.g. inferences) as well as perceptual explanations have been proposed within the literature.

The Effects of the Explicit Naming of Discrepancies between History Paintings and Historical Evidence on the Cognitive Processing, Evaluation and Memory of Pictorial Elements

Viewers tend to perceive pictorial representations of historical events, such as those found in museums of history or art history, as a reliable source of information about the event depicted. However, paintings often intentionally distort reality, which requires a deeper de- and reconstructive examination. This PhD project investigates effects of an explicit naming of the discrepancy between a history painting and historical evidence on the viewing of the picture.

The influence of haptic exploration of objects on knowledge acquisition and interest

While current theories on learning in multimedia learning environments concentrate on visual and auditory access, this dissertation project focuses on a different sensory approach to learning content: The haptics and haptic exploration of physical objects. Thus, the extent to which this haptic experience - in combination with visual impressions - influences learning and the learning experience in informal learning environments, such as museums and exhibitions, is investigated.

The visitors’ view on Obersalzberg: cognitive psychological analyses of the perception of an authentic location and its propagandistic staging during the time of National Socialism

The project „Visitors’ view on Obersalzberg“ focuses on two research questions: How can propaganda pictures get deconstructed? And how does the awareness of being in a historic place related to Nazi-history influence the perception, the processing and the judgements about associated pictures? Cooperation partner is the Institute for Contemporary History (Dokumentation Obersalzberg). Empiric findings are meant to flow into the realm of practice, the museum.

Places of remembrance linked to the history of National Socialism (NS, Nazi) are gaining importance during the last two decades. Obersalzberg is a place with references to the Nazi-regime and was used as a setting for Nazi-propaganda. Today an educational center about history and politics is located there. The project is divided into two thematic blocks: on the one hand the deconstruction of propaganda, on the other the impact of historical places.
A first experimental study already showed that prior information about the crimes that happened during the time of NS as well as the awareness of being at a place linked to that history had a negative influence on the personal mood. The negative personal mood in a next step influences the valence ratings of associated pictures. Within the project, both field studies and lab studies are conducted. Methodologically, a broad spectrum of objective (computer-based speech analyses, eye-tracking) and subjective measurements (questionnaires, rating scales) is used. Methods for the deconstruction of propaganda images are also investigated in virtual realities and with multi-touch surfaces.
The empiric findings are meant to build a basement for further psychological research as well as to get transferred to the conception of the new permanent exhibition of the Dokumentation Obersalzberg.

Former Projects

graduation papers