Increasing Learner Engagement and Memory Using Socio-Technical Factors and Physiological Feedback      

In this collaborative project with Jorge Pena and Oliver Kreylos we introduce a theoretical and practical framework for harnessing the opportunities offered by computer-enabled learning technologies in order to enhance learner outcomes. We hope to provide affective and physiological feedback directly to learners, enabling them to self-monitor their reactions to learning content. Our project is also designed to foster more positive learning experiences and improve learner memory by leveraging technological affordances and informing their implementation within the context of biofeedback-enabled learning environments. This is very exciting! Check out our demo video here:

Emotion Spillover Effect
A series of studies have been under way to investigate cognitive and emotional mechanisms underlying the emotion spillover effect. This effect has been demonstrated in studies investigating the mechanism by which the processing of a message is affected when it is preceded by an emotional message; these studies have shown that memory accuracy for neutral items previously paired with arousing items is improved compared to those paired with other neutral items. However little explanation has been provided about what might be responsible for these results. We are collecting physiological and self-report data to address this question. We use conventional ads, public service announcements and direct to consumer advertising to explore how people encode information from these messages when they are preceded by emotionally charged positive and negative video clips. Some of this research has been already published and can be found here

Emotional and Cognitive responses to Junk Food Advertising
This research project tries to better understand how visual and verbal information interact to elicit emotional reactions to junk versus healthy food advertisements. We started with collecting data using only food images first and reported selected results in this paper. More studies with more complex stimuli are underway.

Processing Advertisements on-line: emotional context, placement on screen, and relevance
This project is a continuation of a research program aimed at understanding how people prioritize information intake under high levels of positive or negative arousal. Our most interesting findings are published in Cognition and EmotionCommunication Research, and Media Psychology. We have also developed a measure of centrality that we described here. Currently we are trying to understand how people encode website advertisements placed around emotionally charged content. Data collection and analysis are underway.

Emotional stories and On-line News Placement and Structure
Theoretically, this study builds on motivational information processing theories to better understand how readers of on-line news select and encode non-linear news information. The unique contribution of this study is that it for the first time conceptualizes the multilayered nature of the web content within the framework of the motivational information processing approach and provides initial evidence for how this multilayered environment affects message processing in a systematic way. In terms of practice, understanding how formal features of the on-line content affect choice and selection of news may help news producers make more informed decisions both about the on-line news layout and the narrative structure of the news stories.

Word concreteness and international news processing
This project explores the effects of the use of concrete versus abstract language in news stories on recall of news content and the perceived psychological distance. Of importance here is the fact that both domestic and international news stories are used in a single study to access the notion of psychological distance in a more systematic way.

Stress , multitasking, and academic performance
This study is an undergraduate research project with very promising findings. Previous research has shown that the prevalent choice of multitasking by students has a negative effect on their learning. Yet, little is known about factors that can discourage students from engaging in multitasking. The primary objective of this study is to address this question. Specifically, the effect of cognitive stress on students’ goals and their decisions to multitask during lectures is explored.  This study just completed data collection. Students’ multitasking activities during a pre-recorded lecture that was projected on a large classroom screen were observed and recorded. Students were asked to attend to the lecture material under high and low stress conditions. In conditions where cognitive stress was high, the decision to multitask was expected to become less rewarding, incentivizing students to allocate cognitive resources toward relevant educational goals and away from off-task activities. In conditions where cognitive stress was low, students were expected to shift cognitive resources toward activities that met their personal goals (i.e. social interaction). The findings can help more efficiently control the amount of multitasking in classrooms by adjusting instructor teaching style, leading to improved learning outcomes.