July 18, 2011 Contact: Edward F. Tate III
RUTGERS RESEARCHER WINS MAJOR FEDERAL GRANT
Study to measure mental effort expended by subjects seeking information
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.
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