Cognitive load assessment in learning situations (2015 – present)

The conducive design of digital learning materials requires essential preliminary considerations, particularly referring to limitations in learners’ cognitive resources. These should not be overloaded due to the variety of occupied modalities and interactive features. I inspected related dynamics from a temporal perspective with behavioral experiments and computational models. A potential application of the emerging algorithmic framework consists in the field of adaptive educational assistants that offer tailored instructional support based on the detected level of cognitive load.

Example trial procedure in an abstract symbol learning task (displayed in Wirzberger, Herms, Esmaeili Bijarsari, Eibl, & Rey, 2018, p. 7)

Continuous cognitive load assessment (2015 – 2017)
A prominent theory in the field of educational media, the Cognitive Load Theory, postulates different facets of cognitive load related to selected aspects of the learning situation and the learning process. Within a fruitful collaboration with the chair of Media Informatics at the TU Chemnitz, I examined the interplay between these facets in abstract learning tasks with particular focus on process-related changes across a learning task. On methodological accounts, I used a variety of approaches, ranging from experimentally obtained performance measures, paralinguistic speech indices, and psychophysiological parameters. The obtained findings indicate decreasing levels of cognitive load with increasing progress in knowledge acquisition.

Predicting neural response patterns (2016 – present)
To inspect related cognitive processes in more detail, I developed cognitive models with the cognitive architecture ACT-R. I further generated simulated fMRI predictions to gain insight into emerging dynamics on a neural level. This approach leverages the correspondence of ACT-R’s modular structure with predefined brain regions. I currently continue and extend this line of research in collaboration with the Cognitive Modeling Group at the University of Groningen the direction of model-based cognitive neuroscience to validate and strengthen the existing findings.

Related publications

  • Wirzberger, M., Borst, J. P., Krems, J. F., & Rey, G. D. (2019). An ACT-R approach to investigating mechanisms of performance-related changes in an interrupted learning task. In In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. Freksa (Eds.) Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1206-1211). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society. [PDF]
  • Wirzberger, M., Borst, J. P., Krems, J. F., & Rey, G. D. (2019). A model-based explanation of performance related changes in abstract stimulus-response learning. In 52nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Mathematical Psychology. Program & Abstracts (pp. 19-20). Society for Mathematical Psychology.
  • Wirzberger, M. (2019). Load-inducing factors in instructional design: Process-related advances in theory and assessment (Doctoral dissertation, TU Chemnitz). [PDF of synopsis part]
  • Wirzberger, M., Herms, R., Esmaeili Bijarsari, S., Eibl, M., & Rey, G. D. (2018). Schema-related cognitive load influences performance, speech, and physiology in a dual-task setting: A continuous multi-measure approach. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 3:46. doi:10.1186/s41235-018-0138-z
  • Herms, R., Wirzberger, M., Eibl, M., & Rey, G. D. (2018). CoLoSS: Cognitive load corpus with speech and performance data from a symbol-digit dual-task. In N. Calzolari, K. Choukri, C. Cieri, T. Declerck, S. Goggi, K. Hasida, … T. Tokunaga (Eds.). Proceedings of the 11th International Language Resources and Evaluation Conference (LREC 2018) (pp. 4312-4317). Miyazaki, Japan: European Language Resources Association (ELRA). PDF
  • Wirzberger, M., Herms, R., Esmaeili Bijarsari, S., Rey, G. D., & Eibl, M. (2018). Cognitive load influences performance, speech and physiological parameters in a multimodal dual-task setting. In A. C. Schütz, A. Schubö, D. Endres, & H. Lachnit (Eds.) Abstracts of the 60th Conference of Experimental Psychologists (p. 296). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.
  • Wirzberger, M., Herms, R., Esmaeili Bijarsari, S., Rey, G. D., & Eibl, M. (2017). Influences of cognitive load on learning performance, speech and physiological parameters in a dual-task setting. In Abstracts of the 20th Conference of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (p. 161). Potsdam, Germany.
  • Wirzberger, M., Esmaeili Bijarsari, S., & Rey, G. D. (2017). Embedded interruptions and task complexity influence schema-related cognitive load progression in an abstract learning task. Acta Psychologica, 179, 30-41. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2017.07.001
  • Wirzberger, M., Rey, G. D., & Krems, J. F. (2017). Modeling cognitive load effects in an interrupted learning task: An ACT-R approach. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. J. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 3540-3545). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. PDF
  • Wirzberger, M. (2017). Inspecting cognitive load factors in digital learning settings with ACT-R. In T. Arnold, B. Heinzerling, C. Tauchmann, T. Grube, M. Maaß, & N. Wessels (Eds.), Dagstuhl 2017. Proceedings of the 11th Joint Workshop of the German Research Training Groups in Computer Science (p. 62).
  • Wirzberger, M., Beege, M., Schneider, S., Nebel, S., & Rey, G. D. (2016). One for all?! Simultaneous examination of load-inducing factors for advancing media-related instructional research. Computers & Education, 100, 18-31. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2016.04.010
  • Wirzberger, M., & Rey, G. D. (2016). Examining load-inducing factors in instructional design: An ACT-R approach. In D. Reitter, & F. E. Ritter (Eds.). Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM 2016) (pp. 223-224). University Park, PA: Penn State.
  • Wirzberger, M., Beege, M., Schneider, S., Nebel, S., & Rey, G. D. (2016). CLT meets WMU: Simultaneous experimental manipulation of load factors in a basal working memory task. 9th International Cognitive Load Theory Conference, June 22nd to 24th, 2016, Bochum, Germany, Abstracts (p. 19).
  • Wirzberger, M., Beege, M., Schneider, S., Nebel, S., & Rey, G. D. (2016). Separating cognitive load facets in a working memory updating task: An experimental approach. International Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Granada – Spain, May 5-8, 2016, Abstract Book (pp. 211-212).
  • Wirzberger, M. (2016). Modeling load factors in multimedia learning: An ACT-R approach. In B. Etzold, R. Richter, M. Eibl, & W. Lehner (Eds.). Dagstuhl 2016. Proceedings of the 10th Joint Workshop of the German Research Training Groups in Computer Science (p. 98). Chemnitz: Universitätsverlag Chemnitz.
  • Wirzberger, M., & Rey, G. D. (2016). CLT meets ACT-R: Modeling load-inducing factors in instructional design. In J. Funke, J. Rummel, & A. Voß (Eds.). Abstracts of the 58th Conference of Experimental Psychologists (p. 377). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.
  • Wirzberger, M. & Rey, G. D. (2015). Cognitive modeling meets instructional design: Exploring Cognitive Load Theory with ACT-R. In C. Wienrich, T. Zander, & K. Gramann (Eds.). Trends in Neuroergonomics. Proceedings of the 11th Berlin Workshop Human-Machine Systems (pp. 190-193), Berlin: Universitätsverlag der TU Berlin. doi: 10.14279/depositonce-4887