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Postdoc Network: Cognitive Conflicts During Media Use

With this program the IWM supports excellent postdocs on their way to a succesful academic career.

The IWM is committed to the promotion of young researchers. While several institutions offer structured funding programs for PhD students (e.g., IWM program), structured funding for young researchers at the postdoc level is lacking. Here, with the postdoc network 'Cognitive Conflicts During Media Use' funded by the senate committee for competition the IWM takes over a role model for the promotion of young postdoc researchers.

Figure 1

The postdoc network that is organized by the participating postdocs themselves selectively promotes young scientists who aim for an academic career after the successful completion of a PhD. The central objective of the network is to support the participating postdoc in developing an independent research profile as well as the acquisition of third-party funding. In order to achieve this objective, the members of the postdoc network among other things have access to the following resources.


  • Seed money for preparing proposals for third party funding
  • Funding for lab visits abroad
  • Funding for organizing workshops, mentoring, and training
  • Travel grants for visiting conferences
  • Funding to enhance the reconcilability of work and family

The network is supervised from the professors of the IWM: 

Within the network the following projects are funded:
A. Schüler, Multiple Representations Lab & M. Merkt, Alumnus
Detecting and handling conflicts in dynamic respresentations

Abstract: Digital learning environments including different representation formats are assumed to support learning. However, until now, the effects of possible conflicts between different representation formats have been neglected. In this project, we investigate the effects of conflict between verbal and pictorial information in dynamic audiovisual representations. In particular, we are interested in whether learners detect conflicts and whether conflicts affect learning in terms of information processing (i.e., eye-tracking) and outcome variables (e.g., knowledge test).

A. Schüler, Multiple Representations Lab, E. Domahidi & M. Merkt, both Alumni
The influence of conflicts in social media profiles on expertise judgments

Abstract: Social media are multi-modal information environments that often include conflicting picture and text-based content. Despite the growing importance of social media for information seeking the impact of conflicting information conveyed through social media profiles hasn’t been investigated yet. The proposed project builds on a first pilot study on the topic and seeks to analyze systematically information processing in conflict rich multi-modal information environments with picture and text-based information. Hence we propose a set of experiments that will investigate further the relationship between conflicting multi-modal information (i.e., conflicts between text and pictures; conflicts within texts) and participants’ expertise judgments as well as their’ perception and memory of the perceived conflict.

D. Becker, Social Processes Lab & A. Schüler, Multiple Representations Lab
The influence of conflict on attention and memory when the solution is (un)clear

Abstract: In the proposed research we aim to study the influence of decisional (i.e., which option to choose) and informational (i.e., which source to trust) cognitive conflicts on attention and memory. Both types of conflict are ubiquitous in everyday life, and might be experienced even more often and more intensely during digital media use, because more choice options are available and more information can be gathered. Previous research has demonstrated that conflict enhances attention and memory of task-relevant features. Importantly, this has mainly been shown for conflicts with a single correct solution (e.g., response conflict in a Stroop task). Decisional and informational cognitive conflicts are, however, characterized by the fact that there is no ‘single correct’ solution. As a consequence, attention and memory might be distributed across multiple features, and could additionally be accompanied by increased levels of uncertainty. The experiments, therefore, investigate the impact of decisional and informational conflicts on attention allocation and memory by using a variety of dependent outcome and online measures (i.e., memory performance, reaction time, mouse tracking data, eye movement data).

M. Ninaus, Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity, M. Bientzle, Knowledge Construction Lab & S. Huber, Alumnus
Sensor-based assessment of cognitive conflicts in digital learning environments

Abstract: Dealing with information on the internet is usually a self-guided process and can often lead to cognitive conflicts. Although a medium level of cognitive conflict was found to be beneficial for learning outcomes, empirical evidence regarding cognitive conflicts as a learning strategy is mixed. One of the major problems is the assessment of cognitive conflicts. Current assessment methods are suboptimal and mostly rely on self-reporting techniques. Thus, the aim of the present project is to identify precise, objective and continuous measures which can be used to measure cognitive conflict by using behavioural and physiological parameters (i.e. heart rate, electrodermal activity, mouse trajectories, eye movements, facial expression and head posture).

K. Bernecker, Social Processes Lab & M. Ninaus, Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity
No pain, no gain? Investigating motivational effects of game elements in cognitive tasks

Abstract: The literature on serious games and gamification suggests a positive influence of game elements on learning outcomes for a wide-range of topics (e.g., STEM subjects, working memory training). However, the mechanisms by which game elements affect learning outcomes are not well understood. The present research aims to test the effect of three popular game elements (i.e., progress bar, score, context) on motivational and emotional states during engagement in a strenuous working memory task (i.e., n-back), namely positive affect, motivational conflict and subjectively experienced effort. Thereby, Study 1 focuses on the combined effect of these game elements on motivational/emotional states and task performance/persistence. Study 2 aims to replicate the effects and additionally varies the game element of the context to be either artificial (i.e., “brains versus zombies”) or real (i.e., working memory training). As a second aim of our research we will examine individual differences in the effectiveness of game elements. We propose and test whether people who are more motivated by immediate versus delayed rewards (those low in delay of gratification and trait self-control) benefit more from game elements.

H. Meyerhoff, Realistic Depictions Lab & M. Ninaus, Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity
Cognitive training: The impact of game elements on multiple object tracking

Abstract: Maintaining visual attention for longer periods of time is a demanding task that is involved in almost every human activity ranging from basic perception of higher processes such as the acquisition of new knowledge. While present research findings suggest that this ability can be successfully trained, it requires tremendous investment and effort from the participants in order to yield improvements in visual attention. Engaging in such conventional cognitive trainings is, more often than not, accompanied by the cognitive conflict of turning towards more pleasant activities and thereby avoiding the cognitive challenge of training. To reduce this cognitive conflict, game elements might be a helpful supplement to training environments. In the present project, we therefore examine how individual game elements affect performance as well as motivation in a highly demanding visual attention paradigm. More specifically, we investigate the effect of points/feedback, leaderboards, and theme/narrative on performance, performance over time, and self-reported motivation in a multiple object tracking paradigm. We thereby aim to contribute to a better understanding of the impact of game elements on performance as well as enhancements of the underlying attentional resources.

J. Bahnmüller, Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity & J. Richter, Multiple Representations Lab
The Influence of Signaling on Numerical-Linguistic Conflicts in Basic Numerical Processing

Abstract: A growing body of research indicates that the counterintuitive inversion of tens and units in several number word systems (e.g., 25 ~ “fünfundzwanzig” – literally five and twenty in German) constitutes an obstacle during the acquisition of number knowledge. While most studies conclude that the inversion of number words has detrimental effects on numerical processing, suggestions on how to overcome this obstacle are mostly anecdotal. Linking basic research on numerical cognition with an instructional support measure that has so far been shown to support predominantly learning with text and multimedia we use signaling in the present project as a means to manipulate external stimulus features to reduce internal conflicts between the Arabic digit notation and an inverted number word formation. As a first step, we systematically investigate potential signaling effects (i.e., highlighting specific digits or parts of number words) in the context of a two-digit number comparison task in adults speaking an inverted language (German). Thereby, the number comparison task allows for an investigation of signaling effects both within one format but also across formats (Arabic digit and number word notation) providing a direct test of conflict reduction when an integration between the Arabic digit notation and inverted number words is necessary for task execution.

Y. Kammerer, Multimodal Interaction Lab & M. Merkt, Alumnus
Sourcing when reading about socio-scientific issues on the Internet:
The roles of inter-text contradictions and text-attitude contradictions

Abstract: The project is based on the assumptions of the D-ISC (Discrepancy-Induced Source Comprehension) model by Braasch and Bråten (2017). This model postulates that both contradictions between documents (inter-text contradictions) and contradictions between one or several documents and an individual’s preexisting attitudes (text-attitude contradictions) foster individuals’ attention to and memory for sources (i.e., where the information stems from) when reading Internet documents. So far, however, only either inter-text contradictions or text-attitude contradictions have been investigated. In the planned project, the interplay between both types of contradictions will be examined in two eye-tracking experiments. Participants will be tasked to read two Internet documents (containing source information) on a controversial socio-scientific issues and to subsequently answer a set of questions on the texts.

L. Ditrich, Social Processes Lab & M. Lachmair, Multimodal Interaction Lab
Seeing things from a broader perspective: An investigation of the pro-social effects with high immersive virtual reality

Abstract: Information distributed through media has the potential to contribute to the solution of societal problems by increasing problem-awareness and by allowing media consumers to make informed decisions about their behaviour. However, especially with regard to one of the most serious problems facing society as a whole – climate change – mixed effects of media consumption have been found. We propose that one factor contributing to these mixed effects might be media characteristics. Therefore, we seek to explore how immersion (i.e., the technical aspects allowing users to experience a sense of presence in a more or less realistic, virtual world) affects the impact of climate-change related information on consumers’ intentions to show pro-environmental behaviour. We assume that high (vs. low) immersive environments are capable of promoting problem-awareness, thereby promoting pro-social (i.e., pro-environmental) behaviour. Moreover, we will assess how immersion influences empathy with a group severely affected by climate change. These effects will be explored in two studies comparing highly immersive media displays (i.e., virtual reality glasses) to standard displays. In so doing, we hope to shed light on the pro-social consequences of immersion and to thereby contribute to research investigating social effects of virtual reality environments.

A. Scholl, Social Processes Lab & H. Meyerhoff, Realistic Depictions Lab
Causality heuristics and the role of stress & control in resolving conflicting situations

Abstract: Human information processing often relies on heuristics (i.e., “quick-and-easy” judgments). During perception, these heuristics help resolving ’cognitive conflicts’, that is, interpreting perceptually ambiguous situations. From research on perception, we know which potential heuristics (e.g., illusions) people may apply to resolve such conflicts. Yet, it remains largely unknown in which social contexts people tend to apply such heuristics. Applying social psychological approaches, this project focuses on the role of social context (i.e., stress, control, and social power) to examine ‘cognitive conflicts’ created by both the task (providing ambiguous information on screen) and the context itself (e.g., providing a lack of control that people try to restore).