Distraction and interruption in applied task settings (2012 – 2017)

Getting distracted by irrelevant information and thus being interrupted in an ongoing task is an omnipresent situation in daily life. In particular in applied task settings, a variety of interfering factors occupies the limited cognitive resources. My existing research focuses on related effects in mobile task scenarios and multimedia learning contexts and employs both experimental research and computational cognitive modeling.

Learning material on factor analysis with seductive text passage (displayed in Wirzberger & Rey, 2018, p. 249)

Attention distraction in multimedia learning (2012)
My first project in this area of research focused on constraints arising from impaired attention in multimedia learning settings. In a task on factor analysis, attention impairments were included by distracting system-notifications, e.g., update messages, and interesting but irrelevant (so-called “seductive”) text passages that are used to foster motivation. Both features have a high prevalence in computer-based learning environment. To assess learners’ individual level of attention control, I used the FAIR-2, a standardized psychological attention inventory. The results showed that irrelevant information extended the learning time. Furthermore, learners with higher levels of attention control could cope better with system-notifications and achieve increased learning performance.

Shopping list application with interruption (displayed in Wirzberger & Russwinkel, 2015, p. 149)

Interruption and resumption in a Smartphone task (2013-2014)
In a second project, I used a shopping list application to investigate cognitive processes related to interruption and resumption in a real-world scenario. Interruptions occurred due to product advertisement, and task difficulty was increased when shopping had to be done for more than one person. On methodological accounts, I used the cognitive architecture ACT-R to develop a computational model of underlying cognition and validated the emerging pattern with human experimental data. In particular the final product recall indicated a good fit between model and human data. Future directions involve the exploration of beneficial resumption strategies for different user groups and situations to incorporate them in assistive systems.

Hyperlink in spatially separated format (see Wirzberger, Schneider, Dlouhy, & Rey, 2017)

Can hyperlinks interrupt schema acquisition? (2016-2017)
Hyperlinks became indispensable in our digital age and are an inherent feature of many computer-based learning environments. On the positive side, they can foster deeper understanding, but on the negative side they might also impair the construction of coherent mental models. To explore this duality further, we investigated selected hyperlink features with interrupting potential. In more detail, we manipulated link loading times, spatial link format and fit between link and learning page contents in a learning task on metabolism and energy generation. Even if we could not observe crucial impairments in performance, the inspected features required increased cognitive resources to compensate for the related demands.

Related publications

  • Wirzberger, M., & Rey, G. D. (2018). Attention please! Enhanced attention control abilities compensate for instructional impairments in multimedia learning. Journal of Computers in Education, 5, 243-257.doi: 10.1007/s40692-018-0106-0
  • Wirzberger, M., Schneider, S., Dlouhy, S., & Rey, G. D. (2017). Time – Space – Content? Interrupting features of hyperlinks in multimedia learning. In T. Goschke, A. Bolte, & C. Kirschbaum (Eds.), Abstracts of the 59th Conference of Experimental Psychologists (TeaP) (p. 97). Lengerich: Papst Science Publishers.
  • Wirzberger, M., & Russwinkel, N. (2015). Modeling interruption and resumption in a smartphone task: An ACT-R approach. i-com, 14, 147-154. doi: 10.1515/icom-2015-0033
  • Wirzberger, M. (2014). Smart@load? Modeling interruption while using a Smartphone-app in alternating workload conditions (Master thesis, TU Berlin). [PDF]
  • Russwinkel, N., Prezenski, S., Lindner, S., Halbrügge, M., Schulz, M., & Wirzberger, M. (2014). Modeling of cognitive aspects of mobile interaction. Cognitive Processing, 15(Suppl. 1), S22-S24. doi: 10.1007/s10339-014-0632-2
  • Wirzberger, M., & Russwinkel, N. (2014). „I don’t need it“ – Modeling ad-induced interruption while using a smartphone-app. In Crosswolds 2014: Theory, Development and Evaluation of Social Technology, Chemnitz. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4426.0966
  • Wirzberger, M., & Rey, G. D. (2013). Attention impairment in multimedia learning: Does initial task attention act as moderator?. In F. Schwab, A. Carolus, M. Brill, & C. Hennighausen (Eds.), Media Psychology: Media Research: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the Media Psychology Division of the German Psychological Society (p. 11), Würzburg: University of Würzburg.
  • Wirzberger, M., & Rey, G. D. (2013). Inducing impaired attention within the seductive detail effect: Do already distracted learners suffer more?. In U. Ansorge, E. Kirchler, C. Lamm, & H. Leder (Eds.), Abstracts of the 55th Conference of Experimental Psychologists (p. 314), Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.
  • Wirzberger, M. (2012). Experimentelle Induktion beeinträchtigter Aufmerksamkeit im Kontext des seductive detail Effekts [Experimental induction of attention distraction within the seductive detail effect] (Bachelor thesis, University of Hagen). [PDF]