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Potentials of neurophysiological measures for research on instructional design: The case of decorative pictures

WorkgroupMultimodal Interaction Lab
Duration10/2018 – 10/2021
Project description

The project examines by means of (neuro-)physiological measures (electroencephalography, [EEG], eye tracking, pupillometry) the effects of decorative pictures on cognitive (e.g., working memory, attention) and emotional-motivational processes during learning with textual materials. Decorative pictures are commonly used in the design of instructional materials as a kind of seductive details to arouse learners' interest in the topic. However, decorative pictures have resulted in mixed effects on learning outcomes with potential reasons still matter of debate. Increased cognitive load and attentional distraction have been hypothesized as reasons for detrimental effects of decorative pictures on learning.

The research project aims to systematically studying factors of how decorative pictures influence cognitive load and attention during learning, thus identifying when and how decorative pictures result in beneficial or detrimental effects on task performance and learning. Suitable (neuro-)physiological process measures like the frontal EEG theta and parietal EEG alpha frequency band power, the frontal EEG alpha asymmetry, and pupil dilation will be used to assess effects of decorative pictures during task performance and learning. In a series of four studies different features of decorative pictures will be experimentally manipulated in the context of learning tasks (reading comprehension) and working memory tasks (n-back tasks). As all experimental manipulations are conducted in complex learning tasks as well as in basic, highly controlled working memory tasks, potentially confounding factors on the physiological measures can be ruled out and the results may be generalized and attributed specifically to working memory performance.
In sum, the project identifies the potentials (and challenges) of using neurophysiological process-measures for research on instructional design.