July 18, 2011                                                                                       Contact: Edward F. Tate III


                                                                                                          732-932-7500 x8012


Study to measure mental effort expended by subjects seeking information

 Jacek Gwizdka, assistant professor of library and information science in Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information, has been awarded a $335,000 Early Career Development Project grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Google Inc. is funding current research by Gwizdka that provides a foundation for this new project, which will entail developing and validating a new framework for non-intrusive, continuous monitoring and assessment of cognitive load (mental effort) experienced by users of digital libraries. This framework will then be validated in an experiment where cognitive load will be controlled. A second experiment later will be conducted in which the new framework will be applied to assessing cognitive load in realistic information-seeking scenarios. This project will result in a new understanding of the mental effort required by those engaged in information seeking. Results of the study will inform the design of digital libraries and other interactive information systems.

“Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that heightened mental effort makes some people avoid certain features of interactive search interfaces—for example, people avoid providing relevance feedback—while others get lost in Web-based digital libraries,” Gwizdka said.  “As a result, some people may be unsuccessful in finding the needed information. This problem becomes critical as society moves toward relying on electronic delivery of information vital to citizen’s lives, including financial information, health information, and health records.”

The project will develop a system to continuously monitor a person’s cognitive load by combining keyboard and mouse activity with physiological signals, such as the signals registered by electroencephalography. While EEG has been used to infer cognitive load in other contexts, it has never been used in the context of digital libraries and information-seeking tasks.

Competition for the federal grant, which is through the IMLS 21st Century Librarian Program, was intense, with only 2 out of 24 (8 percent) applications chosen for funding.

About Rutgers’ SC&I

SC&I’s educational, scholarly and public mission affirms the premise that communication and information processes must put people first. Our faculty excel in educating graduates to lead their professions. Their lasting contributions shape the communication, journalism, media, library and information science fields.  SC&I comprises about 1,800 undergraduate students, 500 masters students, 50 grad students pursuing non-degree certificates and 120 doctoral students.  Please visit our website.


Edward F. Tate III, Interim Director, Public Communications
School of Communication & Information
267.934.3475 (cell) 732.932.7500 x8012 (office)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey