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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.