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re Hernán González
Hernán González
Research Scientist
re Ella Eisemann
Ella Eisemann
Alumni
re Gabriela Iwama
re Mike Prentice
Mike Prentice
Postdoctoral Researcher
re Victoria Amo
Victoria Amo
Ph.D. Student
re Pin-Zhen Chen
Pin-Zhen Chen
Student Assistant
Maria Wirzberger
Maria Wirzberger
Affiliated Researcher
re Maryam Elenguebawy
Maryam Elenguebawy
Student Assistant
re Lennart Scatturin
Lennart Scatturin
Student Assistant
re Jugoslav Stojcheski
Jugoslav Stojcheski
Student Assistant
re Florian Mohnert
re Valkyrie Felso
Valkyrie Felso
Ph.D. Student
re Lin Xu
Lin Xu
Alumni
re Benjamin Prystawski
Benjamin Prystawski
Bachelor's Student Intern
re Mateo Tosic
Mateo Tosic
Student Assistant
sf Ivan Oreshnikov
Ivan Oreshnikov
Research Engineer
sf Jean-Claude Passy
Jean-Claude Passy
Research Engineer
re Lisa Eckerstorfer
Lisa Eckerstorfer
Postdoctoral Researcher
re Anastasia Lado
Anastasia Lado
Student Assistant
re Adrian Stock
Adrian Stock
Student Assistant
re Falk Lieder
Falk Lieder
Max Planck Research Group Leader
9 results

2020


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How to navigate everyday distractions: Leveraging optimal feedback to train attention control

Wirzberger, M., Lado, A., Eckerstorfer, L., Oreshnikov, I., Passy, J., Stock, A., Shenhav, A., Lieder, F.

Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2020 (conference) Accepted

Abstract
To stay focused on their chosen tasks, people have to inhibit distractions. The underlying attention control skills can improve through reinforcement learning, which can be accelerated by giving feedback. We applied the theory of metacognitive reinforcement learning to develop a training app that gives people optimal feedback on their attention control while they are working or studying. In an eight-day field experiment with 99 participants, we investigated the effect of this training on people's productivity, sustained attention, and self-control. Compared to a control condition without feedback, we found that participants receiving optimal feedback learned to focus increasingly better (f = .08, p < .01) and achieved higher productivity scores (f = .19, p < .01) during the training. In addition, they evaluated their productivity more accurately (r = .12, p < .01). However, due to asymmetric attrition problems, these findings need to be taken with a grain of salt.

How to navigate everyday distractions: Leveraging optimal feedback to train attention control DOI Project Page [BibTex]


A Gamified App that Helps People Overcome Self-Limiting Beliefs by Promoting Metacognition
A Gamified App that Helps People Overcome Self-Limiting Beliefs by Promoting Metacognition

Amo, V., Lieder, F.

SIG 8 Meets SIG 16, September 2020 (conference) Accepted

Abstract
Previous research has shown that approaching learning with a growth mindset is key for maintaining motivation and overcoming setbacks. Mindsets are systems of beliefs that people hold to be true. They influence a person's attitudes, thoughts, and emotions when they learn something new or encounter challenges. In clinical psychology, metareasoning (reflecting on one's mental processes) and meta-awareness (recognizing thoughts as mental events instead of equating them to reality) have proven effective for overcoming maladaptive thinking styles. Hence, they are potentially an effective method for overcoming self-limiting beliefs in other domains as well. However, the potential of integrating assisted metacognition into mindset interventions has not been explored yet. Here, we propose that guiding and training people on how to leverage metareasoning and meta-awareness for overcoming self-limiting beliefs can significantly enhance the effectiveness of mindset interventions. To test this hypothesis, we develop a gamified mobile application that guides and trains people to use metacognitive strategies based on Cognitive Restructuring (CR) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) techniques. The application helps users to identify and overcome self-limiting beliefs by working with aversive emotions when they are triggered by fixed mindsets in real-life situations. Our app aims to help people sustain their motivation to learn when they face inner obstacles (e.g. anxiety, frustration, and demotivation). We expect the application to be an effective tool for helping people better understand and develop the metacognitive skills of emotion regulation and self-regulation that are needed to overcome self-limiting beliefs and develop growth mindsets.

A gamified app that helps people overcome self-limiting beliefs by promoting metacognition Project Page [BibTex]


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ACTrain: Ein KI-basiertes Aufmerksamkeitstraining für die Wissensarbeit [ACTrain: An AI-based attention training for knowledge work]

Wirzberger, M., Oreshnikov, I., Passy, J., Lado, A., Shenhav, A., Lieder, F.

66th Spring Conference of the German Ergonomics Society, 2020 (conference)

Abstract
Unser digitales Zeitalter lebt von Informationen und stellt unsere begrenzte Verarbeitungskapazität damit täglich auf die Probe. Gerade in der Wissensarbeit haben ständige Ablenkungen erhebliche Leistungseinbußen zur Folge. Unsere intelligente Anwendung ACTrain setzt genau an dieser Stelle an und verwandelt Computertätigkeiten in eine Trainingshalle für den Geist. Feedback auf Basis maschineller Lernverfahren zeigt anschaulich den Wert auf, sich nicht von einer selbst gewählten Aufgabe ablenken zu lassen. Diese metakognitive Einsicht soll zum Durchhalten motivieren und das zugrunde liegende Fertigkeitsniveau der Aufmerksamkeitskontrolle stärken. In laufenden Feldexperimenten untersuchen wir die Frage, ob das Training mit diesem optimalen Feedback die Aufmerksamkeits- und Selbstkontrollfertigkeiten im Vergleich zu einer Kontrollgruppe ohne Feedback verbessern kann.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2019


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The Goal Characteristics (GC) questionannaire: A comprehensive measure for goals’ content, attainability, interestingness, and usefulness

Iwama, G., Wirzberger, M., Lieder, F.

40th Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgement and Decision Making, June 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Many studies have investigated how goal characteristics affect goal achievement. However, most of them considered only a small number of characteristics and the psychometric properties of their measures remains unclear. To overcome these limitations, we developed and validated a comprehensive questionnaire of goal characteristics with four subscales - measuring the goal’s content, attainability, interestingness, and usefulness respectively. 590 participants completed the questionnaire online. A confirmatory factor analysis supported the four subscales and their structure. The GC questionnaire (https://osf.io/qfhup) can be easily applied to investigate goal setting, pursuit and adjustment in a wide range of contexts.

DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


How should we incentivize learning? An optimal feedback mechanism for educational games and online courses
How should we incentivize learning? An optimal feedback mechanism for educational games and online courses

Xu, L., Wirzberger, M., Lieder, F.

41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Online courses offer much-needed opportunities for lifelong self-directed learning, but people rarely follow through on their noble intentions to complete them. To increase student retention educational software often uses game elements to motivate students to engage in and persist in learning activities. However, gamification only works when it is done properly, and there is currently no principled method that educational software could use to achieve this. We develop a principled feedback mechanism for encouraging good study choices and persistence in self-directed learning environments. Rather than giving performance feedback, our method rewards the learner's efforts with optimal brain points that convey the value of practice. To derive these optimal brain points, we applied the theory of optimal gamification to a mathematical model of skill acquisition. In contrast to hand-designed incentive structures, optimal brain points are constructed in such a way that the incentive system cannot be gamed. Evaluating our method in a behavioral experiment, we find that optimal brain points significantly increased the proportion of participants who instead of exploiting an inefficient skill they already knew-attempted to learn a difficult but more efficient skill, persisted through failure, and succeeded to master the new skill. Our method provides a principled approach to designing incentive structures and feedback mechanisms for educational games and online courses. We are optimistic that optimal brain points will prove useful for increasing student retention and helping people overcome the motivational obstacles that stand in the way of self-directed lifelong learning.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Cognitive Prostheses for Goal Achievement
Cognitive Prostheses for Goal Achievement

Lieder, F., Chen, O. X., Krueger, P. M., Griffiths, T. L.

Nature Human Behavior, 3, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Procrastination and impulsivity take a significant toll on people’s lives and the economy at large. Both can result from the misalignment of an action's proximal rewards with its long-term value. Therefore, aligning immediate reward with long-term value could be a way to help people overcome motivational barriers and make better decisions. Previous research has shown that game elements, such as points, levels, and badges, can be used to motivate people and nudge their decisions on serious matters. Here, we develop a new approach to decision support that leveragesartificial intelligence and game elements to restructure challenging sequential decision problems in such a way that it becomes easier for people to take the right course of action. A series of four increasingly more realistic experiments suggests that this approach can enable people to make better decisions faster, procrastinate less, complete their work on time, and waste less time on unimportant tasks. These findings suggest that our method is a promising step towards developing cognitive prostheses that help people achieve their goals by enhancing their motivation and decision-making in everyday life.

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


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Attention please! Enhanced attention control abilities compensate for instructional impairments in multimedia learning

Wirzberger, M., Rey, G. D.

Journal of Computers in Education, 5(2):243-257, Springer Nature, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Learners exposed to multimedia learning contexts have to deal with a variety of visual stimuli, demanding a conducive design of learning material to maintain limitations in attentional resources. Within the current study, effects and constraints arising from two selected impairing features are investigated in more detail within a computer-based learning task on factor analysis. A sample of 53 students received a combination of textual and pictorial elements that explained the topic, while impaired attention was systematically induced in a 2 × 2 factorial between-subjects design by interrupting system-notifications (with vs. without) and seductive text passages (with vs. without). Learners’ ability for controlled attention was assessed with a standardized psychological attention inventory. Approaching the results, learners receiving seductive text passages spent significantly more time on the learning material. In addition, a moderation effect of attention control abilities on the relationship between interruptions and retention performance resulted. Explanations for the obtained findings are discussed referring to mechanisms of compensation, load, and activation.

DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018

DOI [BibTex]


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Rational metareasoning and the plasticity of cognitive control

Lieder, F., Shenhav, A., Musslick, S., Griffiths, T. L.

PLOS Computational Biology, 14(4):e1006043, Public Library of Science, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
The human brain has the impressive capacity to adapt how it processes information to high-level goals. While it is known that these cognitive control skills are malleable and can be improved through training, the underlying plasticity mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we develop and evaluate a model of how people learn when to exert cognitive control, which controlled process to use, and how much effort to exert. We derive this model from a general theory according to which the function of cognitive control is to select and configure neural pathways so as to make optimal use of finite time and limited computational resources. The central idea of our Learned Value of Control model is that people use reinforcement learning to predict the value of candidate control signals of different types and intensities based on stimulus features. This model correctly predicts the learning and transfer effects underlying the adaptive control-demanding behavior observed in an experiment on visual attention and four experiments on interference control in Stroop and Flanker paradigms. Moreover, our model explained these findings significantly better than an associative learning model and a Win-Stay Lose-Shift model. Our findings elucidate how learning and experience might shape people’s ability and propensity to adaptively control their minds and behavior. We conclude by predicting under which circumstances these learning mechanisms might lead to self-control failure.

Rational metareasoning and the plasticity of cognitive control DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Rational metareasoning and the plasticity of cognitive control DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

2016


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Helping people make better decisions using optimal gamification

Lieder, F., Griffiths, T. L.

In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Game elements like points and levels are a popular tool to nudge and engage students and customers. Yet, no theory can tell us which incentive structures work and how to design them. Here we connect the practice of gamification to the theory of reward shaping in reinforcement learning. We leverage this connection to develop a method for designing effective incentive structures and delineating when gamification will succeed from when it will fail. We evaluate our method in two behavioral experiments. The results of the first experiment demonstrate that incentive structures designed by our method help people make better, less short-sighted decisions and avoid the pitfalls of less principled approaches. The results of the second experiment illustrate that such incentive structures can be effectively implemented using game elements like points and badges. These results suggest that our method provides a principled way to leverage gamification to help people make better decisions.

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2016

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]