Research Program, Areas & Projects

For PhD and Post-Doc Candidates

Research Program

As a publicly sponsored and neutrally coordinated program, the KD²School opens up a research field that is at present primarily “investigated” with profit-oriented or political goals. With its main topic "Designing adaptive, IT-based systems for supporting economic decision-making" the research program focuses on: (i) fundamentals of cognitive systems and neurosciences, (ii) individual decisions in everyday activities, (iii) decision making in digital team work environments, (iv) group decisions in online participation, (v) the boundaries of adaptation and addiction potentials, and (vi) linked laboratory infrastructures.

Below you can find the more detailed research projects in each category. For your application please indicate your three most preferred projects. Post-Doc candidates should indicate only one project.

PhD Projects

1. fundamentals of cognitive systems and neurosciences

1.1. Mental states of users of cognitive interaction systems
TEAM
Schultz / Herrmann

DISCIPLINES
Computer Science Psychology
MAIN LOCATION
Bremen (UoB)

This dissertation aims to develop the foundation for the automatic adaptation of cognitive interaction systems to individual, dynamically changing, mental user states, such as the degree of attention, workload or distraction. Based on continously recorded biosignals from eye movements, brain activities, speech and muscle activities, machine learning based methods are to be developed to interpret user states using contextual knowledge. It should also be investigated whether results from lab conditions can be transferred to measurements in the field using mobile devices. There are close links to the dissertation project “Economic Adaptation”, in which the automatic adaptation of cognitive interaction systems is developed.

1.2. Robust Multi-Level Classification of Human Activities and Surroundings Via Inexpensive Wearable Sensors
TEAM
Beigl / Scheibehenne

DISCIPLINES
Computer Science Psychology
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Inexpensive mobile and portable computers as smartphones and smartwatches are ubiquitous. This enables us to see the activity of the person wearing such devices. This dissertation aims to research on novel AI-driven, multi-level approaches to implement very robust classification of human activities and the surrounding contextual situation. The classification should work both unsupervised, support continuously learning and should be expandable through expert knowledge. On the basis of existing methods (e.g. Association Rule Mining, Transfer Learning, Active Learning, GAN), new hybrid classifier systems are being researched that are able to robustly classify user activities in everyday situations. Such systems should be able to provide direct feedback or information that can be used, for example, in longitudinal (e.g. ESM) studies.

1.3. Neurobehavioral Correlates of Interference Resolution and Behavioral Control Mechanisms in Economic Decisions
TEAM
Herrmann / Schultz / Mädche

DISCIPLINES
Psychology Computer Science Information Systems
MAIN LOCATION
Bremen (UoB)

Shaping economic decisions in the frame of desirable, e.g. healthy or sustainable behavior often relies on the control of conflicting or interfering streams of information processing. The present dissertation project will focus on the identification of neuronal activity patters as biosignals of disinhibitory behavior in economic decision-making. Embedded in a neurocognitive and statistical framework of inhibitory control the doctoral student will conduct a series of behavioral and functional Magnetic Resonsance Imaging (fMRI) studies. In a first step we will establish and validate an experimental paradigm that subsequently will be translated into the fMRI-scanner. Building on that data we will analyse the predictive value of inhibition and error signals on economic decision-making and its dynamics, and whether interactive feedback algorithms might modify and shape decision behavior. Finally, we aim at transforming individual economic decision-making into an interactive group scenario via linking the individual in the fMRI lab to multiple players in the KD² labs.


2. Individuals' Decisions in Everyday Activities

2.1. How do people decide?
TEAM
Scheibehenne / Weinhardt

DISCIPLINES
Psychology Information Systems
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

We make thousands of decisions every day. Sometimes the number of options to choose from can be very large, especially in online environments. How do people adapt to such large assortments? Can they be overloaded with choice? What are the cognitive mechanisms behind this behavior? How can we help people to make better decisions? These and other questions at the intersection between psychology, cognitive science, economics, and information systems will be addressed in this dissertation project based on controlled and theory driven behavioral experiments in combination with mathematical cognitive models.

2.2. Dynamic Adaptation of Cognitive Interaction Systems in Economic Decisions
TEAM
Schultz / Pfeiffer

DISCIPLINES
Computer Science Information Systems
MAIN LOCATION
Bremen (UoB)

The aim of this dissertation project is to develop a cognitive interaction system (CIS) that automatically adapts its interaction strategy to cognitive user states. CIS are helpful in economic decision making, for example when shopping online in virtual realities. Eye tracking, speech recognition, motion tracking and EEG data will be synchronously processed by in-house cognitive systems based on machine learning methods to determine user states. Interaction strategies should be learned automatically to optimize target parameters such as attention, distraction and obstacles. The resulting CIS will be researched in cooperation with “Information in VR Shopping” supervised by Prof. Pfeiffer and in “VR intensity of experience” with Prof. Szech.

2.3. Providing Information in Adaptive Cognitive Assistance Systems for VR Shopping
TEAM
Pfeiffer / Schultz / Klarmann

DISCIPLINES
Information Systems Computer Science Management
MAIN LOCATION
Giessen (JLU)

Soon we might go shopping in virtual realities (VR). Intelligent systems that assist the consumers during their shopping process is a development that is particular useful in VR settings because eye-tracking is (or will soon be) an integral part of VR-technology and has been found to reveal a lot of information on the consumer’s decision process. The dissertation projects‘ goal is the design of a system that is able to adapt to the user's needs by measuring the degree of individual attention through eye-tracking and to provide the required product information at exactly the desired time with an optimal degree of complexity. The designed and implemented system will be evaluated in experiments at the DecIS-Lab in Gießen. This thesis is connected to and provides a use case for the thesis economic adaption.

2.4. Wearables in customer-salesperson interactions
TEAM
Klarmann / Beigl

DISCIPLINES
Management Computer Science
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

In interactions between customers and salespeople, both parties are oftentimes required to make far-reaching decisions with little time. Wearables could potentially provide both customers and salespeople with additional information about the situation in real time (e.g., tonality of the voice, mood, emotions, time spent listening, etc.). This could increase the adaptivity of decision-makers to the situation, aid them in the way they behave throughout the interaction, and support them in decision-making. This dissertation project will employ lab experiments and a field study to explore the way how wearables can be designed to transform speech data and biosignals into helpful feedback to customers and salespeople throughout customer-salesperson interactions. More generally, it may also provide some evidence as to whether wearable devices could potentially shift the power balance between customers and firms.

2.5. Using everyday life audio signals to generate automated mood assessments for adaptive systems
TEAM
Ebner-Priemer / Schultz / Beigl

DISCIPLINES
Psychology Computer Science
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Whereas decision making is a frequent everyday life task, its scientific investigation is mainly done in lab studies. However, progress in mobile technology in recent years enables studying such processes in daily life, using digital phenotyping, smartphone technology and wearables. This dissertation project will focus on affect, one of the most central determinants of adaptive systems. Leveraging recent developments from affective computing, we will extract sentiment and voice features of spoken language from daily life assessments as input for adaptive systems. We will partly focus on mental health populations to achieve maximum differences in experienced affect in everyday life.

2.6. Adaption of Virtual Reality-Content to Experience Intensity
TEAM
Szech / Schultz / Pfeiffer

DISCIPLINES
Economics Computer Science Information Systems
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Via Virtual Reality, situations can be experienced by subjects. Such experiences can influence utility, specifically in the domains of sustainability and/or moral and prosocial behavior. In this dissertation project, you will investigate what kind of virtual reality works in which ways, and how important interaction within the virtual reality may be.


3. Team Decisions in Work Environments

3.1. Modeling and analysis of biophysiological and performance-related feedback in creative teams
TEAM
Schultz / Nieken

DISCIPLINES
Computer Science Management
MAIN LOCATION
Bremen (UoB)

In this dissertation project, firstly a theoretical framework is created that models the effects of feedback on performance, attention and affect and, secondly, this model is integrated into adaptive interaction systems that provide "soft" information and feedback. Laboratory experiments are carried out that systematically vary team situations to determine which form and parameters of feedback (e.g. biophysiological, visual or auditory) are suitable for making collaboration in virtual teams more effective and pleasant. In addition to theoretical contributions, prototypical interaction systems are to be developed. This project benefits from linking the laboratories in Karlsruhe, Gießen and Bremen, as expertises complement each other and virtual work in distributed teams can be explored.

3.2. Eye-based Coordination in Virtual Teams
TEAM
Nieken / Mädche

DISCIPLINES
Information Systems Management
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

The importance of virtual team work increased rapidly during the last years. Without face-to-face interactions, coordinating on joint activities can be more difficult because the non-verbal cues are missing. Visual cues, such as mutual gaze or joint attention might play a critical role in coordination. Eye-tracking technology allows to share gaze information in real-time and might help to overcome coordination failures and establish efficient outcomes. This PhD project will investigate eye-based coordination in virtual teams using state-of-the art eye-tracking technology. The project will be interdisciplinary and combine insights from economics, management, information systems, and human computer interaction. The PhD project builds upon existing research of the involved research groups in the fields of eye-based interactive systems and human resource management.

3.3. Flow-Adaptive Systems
TEAM
Mädche / Ebner-Priemer

DISCIPLINES
Information Systems Psychology
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Flow is the holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement. In this dissertation project you will design flow-adaptive systems using (labeled) physiological data and supervised machine learning. You will propose different adaptation strategies within flow-adaptive systems and investigate their impact on flow, well-being, and performance on the individual and team level through experimental studies.

3.4. Neuro-adaptive Collaboration Systems
TEAM
Weinhardt / Herrmann

DISCIPLINES
Information Systems Psychology
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

"It needs a team to build a dream" - Teams are increasingly used to solve complex problems that surpass the competencies of individuals. Unfortunately, though, the potentials of teamwork are often underrealized because diversity in intra- and interpersonal cognitive and affective abilities limits efficient coordination and cooperation. In this dissertation project, data from state-of-the-art neurophysiological sensing methods (e.g., EEG, fNIRS, fMRI) will be leveraged to enrich collaborative teamwork with information and recommendations on effective team-workload distributions. Thereby, productivity- and satisfaction-fostering collaboration support systems will be created.

3.5. Do we trust adaptive systems?
TEAM
Nieken / Weinhardt

DISCIPLINES
Management Information Systems
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Some employees embrace adaptive systems because it makes their lives easier while others are highly skeptical and fear that they will be controlled. In this dissertation project you will explore what parameters influence the perception of adaptive systems at the workplace. Central questions will be: Who should have access to the stored data? What kind of information do we need to give individual employees so that they trust such an adaptive system.

3.6. Morality at the workplace
TEAM
Nieken / Szech

DISCIPLINES
Management Economics
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

The availability of real-time performance data at the workplace raises several ethical concerns. In this dissertation project you will explore what ethical concerns have to be kept in mind if adaptive systems are used in teams. Central questions will be: What is perceived as a fair usage of adaptive systems and how can these systems possible be gamed by employees?


4. Group Decisions in Online Participation

4.1. Emotion-adaptive Participation Platforms
TEAM
Weinhardt / Puppe / Scheibehenne

DISCIPLINES
Information Systems Economics Psychology
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Emotions are omnipresent in our lives. They influence our health, decision-making, and social interactions—bilateral as well as multilateral. Hence, also modern forms of opinion building and exchange, e.g., on e-participation platforms, should consider the effects of emotions on individual and group level. Previous research on group interactions demonstrated that providing the members with information about the affective state of the entire group reciprocally influences the affective states of the individuals. In this dissertation project, it will be investigated how real-time physiological information (e.g. heart rate changes as an indicator of activation/arousal) can influence platform participant's behaviors like conflict escalation and resolution or engagement in discussion processes.

4.2. Adaptive information disclosure in online elections
TEAM
Puppe / Pfeiffer

DISCIPLINES
Economics Information Systems
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

It is well-known that information on the behavior of other voters, as for instance transmitted by pre-election polls, influences voters’ behavior. Online elections allow for (almost) real-time information transmission. This dissertation project will study the behavioral consequences of the novel technological possibilities of online elections both from a theoretical and an empirical perspective. A main focus is on the interplay and the impact on social welfare of the extent of information disclosure and the particular voting rule to be used.

4.3. Nudging within Supermarkets
TEAM
Szech / Pfeiffer

DISCIPLINES
Economics Information Systems
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Many times, a low self-control makes it difficult to resist buying unhealthy products. In this dissertation project you will investigate the impact of nudging on such consumption behaviors. You will also work with virtual reality and/or smart glasses in order to understand how nudges can adaptively help to overcome buying temptation.


Post-Doc Projects

5. Boundaries of Adaptation & Addiction Potentials

TEAM
Weinhardt / Ebner-Priemer / Scheibehenne

DISCIPLINES
Information Systems Psychology
MAIN LOCATION
Karlsruhe (KIT)

Over the past years, the dependency on IT has grown severely, often due to addictive mechanisms or features in digital media (e.g., autoplay of YouTube videos or reward and loss-triggers in online gaming and gambling). For these reasons, large technology companies are, for example, now starting to introduce features that supposedly reduce “Smartphone-Addiction”. However, up to date, it has barely been researched how such features actually influence addiction potentials, and there is a real possibility that some of them even exacerbate the issues (e.g., time-based usage restrictions have been found to increase IT-use desires instead of reducing them). In this post-doc project, it will be of central interest to advance the research on non-addictive information systems. This means that theoretical frameworks on non-addictive information systems (or addictive technology use in general) have to be extended to derive beneficial strategies that can be implemented as IT-design features. These works will have to find a means of identifying how adaptive systems are part of the problem (e.g. personalized reward structures) or part of the solution (e.g. personalized suppression of reward mechanisms). Throughout the work, non-addictive feature designs will be evaluated within the project and jointly with other PhD projects that will directly benefit from the knowledge created by the leading post-doc.

6. KD²SchoolAR/VR – Lab-Linking in Virtual Reality

TEAM
Schultz / Beigl

DISCIPLINES
Computer Science
MAIN LOCATION
Bremen (UoB)

The PostDoc in this project will be responsible for the virtual interconnection of the KD²School labs, i.e. KD²Lab, CSL, fMRI and DecIS labs. This task of “linking labs” is not limited to the technical or technological aspect but includes methodological and content-related contributions to multimodal cross-site experimental research. The KD²School considers LabLinking a crucial educational and experimental element which offers unique opportunities which would not arise without the establishment of the Research Training Group.

The PostDoc is jointly funded by the University of Bremen and KIT, which gives several options to interpret this position. In particular, s/he is encouraged to spend time at both sites, Bremen and Karlsruhe for extended periods. S/he will be interacting intensively with the KD²School team, giving ample opportunity to increasing the exposure to interdisciplinary work and to extending her/his network.