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You can find our finished studies here


The following projects are currently researched within our lab or will be realised soon:

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Development and evaluation of a German spatial competence questionnaire for 6 to 12 year old children and adults

Spatial and navigational abilities are highly relevant for the accomplishment of basic tasks in everyday life. To orient oneself and to navigate through the environment, i.e. to move purposefully and safely from one place to another, one’s own position in relation to the environment needs to be continuously maintained and updated. This behavior is accomplished by integration of visual and proprioceptive information in the body. Spatial competence is not innate but acquired during childhood through active interaction with the environment. Between the age of 6 and 12, a striking improvement in spatial competences is observed.
Based on an existing “sense of direction” questionnaire for adults we developed a self-report measure of spatial competence for 6 to 12 year old children. The purpose of this study is to validate our questionnaire with two behavioral navigation tasks. The first task is designed to measure path integration in real life based on proprioceptive signals: Blindfolded participants are guided along various routes and requested to walk to the starting-point of each route. Further we employ a virtual environment game (“Apple Game”) to assess visual navigational abilities.
We conduct the study mainly in elementary and secondary schools.
To ensure comparability across age groups we also assess adults between the age of 18 and 35 with an extended version of the questionnaire and our two validation tasks. Adults are tested at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

Project team: Anoschin, Bode, Schillings, Meißner, Weigelt

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How many children going to elementary school in Germany wear glasses? - An epidemiological study

Within the scope of this study, it will be yielded how many children wear glasses that still go to elementary school, as there are hardly any numbers to find regarding this subject.
The prevalence of wearing glasses serves as an indirect measure for the rate of visual impairment. As the rate of visual impairment has been increasing globally, it is important to know how many children in Germany are visually impaired, as an impeccable eyesight is essential for a child's healthy development.
There are several possible causes for the increased rate of visual impairment, most of them are considered to be the change in lifestyle and the conditions in which our eyes operate today: There has been an increased use of electronics and media, a more intensified way of studying as well as a decreasing time that is spent outdoors.
To analyse these aspects, a survey has been designed, which is filled out by every parent of all children that are pupils at an elementary school in Witten. Witten can be considered as a respresentative city for the federal republic Germany.

Project team: Er, Weigelt


Emotion processing and regulation in children of mentally ill parents

Mental illnesses are among the most prevalent diseases of our time. Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorder or addiction are not only related to prominent social restrictions and suffering of the patients. The children of patients are often severely affected, too. They have a hard time understanding why Mum and Dad suddenly behave differently and do not play or laugh with them. Studies found that children of parents with a mental disease are at risk of developing a mental disease of their own, but the mechanisms of this transgenerational transmission are yet unknown. Therefore, our study investigates emotion perception and regulation processes that influence the development and perseverance of mental illnesses.
In particular, we investigate the relation of parents’ disease characteristics such as the type of mental disorder, its severity and duration with empathy and emotion perception and regulation in their children. We further evaluate positive effects of psychotherapeutic treatment of the parents and a positive parenting programme on the emotion processing of their children. In general, we aim at finding starting points for preventive programs that break the vicious circle and ameliorate negative effects of parental mental illnesses. The study is conducted in cooperation with the University of Gießen and is part of the research grant „Children of Mentally Ill Parents at Risk Evaluation (COMPARE)” supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Project team: Hagelweide, Weigelt

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Emotional sensitization and knowledge acquisition of elementary school children towards refugee children through a school-based intervention

The ability to feel empathy with someone and possibilities of enhancing it have been of special research interest for more than three decades. There are multiple empathy trainings and interventions for various target and age groups referring to different outgroups. Also, within school context, several programms to enhance empathy towards minority groups have been implemented.
Since the end of 2015 refugee children represent a new cultural minority. For a successful integration of refugee children it is crucial that they share positive experiences with native children from the same age group. Because of the growing number of refugee children in German elementary schools the current study wants to contribute to the emotional and informative sensitization of elemantary school children referring to refugee children.
Therefore we conduct a threepart school-based intervention for children at the age of eight to ten, visitng one of the two participating elementary schools. This study aims to increase empathy and knowledge about the topics "flight and refugees" through a newly developed brief intervention. To measure empathy and knowledge, the questionnaire "Feeling and Thinking" and further a selfmade quiz are used before and after the intervention (pre-post-design).

Project team: Graf, Weigelt

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The development of face perception and face memory across the adult life span

Face processing is crucial to our social life. A study by Weigelt and colleagues (2014) showed different developmental trajectories for face memory and face perception in childhood. While memory for faces improved significantly more than memory for other object categories (cars, scenes, and bodies) throughout childhood, the development of face perception did not differ from that of other object categories. Studies have also shown that face processing skills decrease with age (especially from the 6th to the 7th decade; Germine et al., 2011). To our knowledge, so far no study has investigated the further developmental trajectories separately for these two processes across the lifespan.
The aim of the study is to investigate the development of perception and memory of faces compared to those of other object categories, in 60 adults aged 20 to 75. As in the study by Weigelt and colleagues (2014), the paradigm consists of a memory and a perception task. In the memory task, participants are first asked to remember ten faces and ten cars. In the subsequent test phase, the participants are asked to choose the learned face or car from two options. Accordingly, the same task repeats with pictures of bodies and scenes. In the perception task, participants are shown a stimulus (again blocked for faces, cars, bodies, and scenes) and immediately afterwards are asked to identify the learned stimulus from two simultaneously shown stimuli. The similarity between the two stimuli is varied parametrically.

Project team: Tel, Limbach, Weigelt


Differences in face recognition between real and pictoral faces in children and adults

This study investigates the question of to which extent the results of developmental psychological research on face recognition, which mostly uses pictures of faces as stimuli, can be transferred to real situations in which real faces are being processed. The results of developmental psychological research include that the face memory of children beneath the age of 10 is not yet adult-like (Weigelt et al, 2010) and that women recognize faces better than men do (Rehnmann & Herlitz, 2007). Furthermore, Duchaine & Nakayama (2006) developed the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT), a standardized test ought to measure the face recognition ability. The results of Snow, Skiba, Coleman, & Berryhill (2014) on the other hand show significant differences between the recall and recognition of real objects compared to pictures of objects. Thus it cannot be automatically assumed that research on processing of pictorial faces can be transferred to the processing of real faces. This will be investigated in this study. To create a real situation in which the face recognition ability plays a practical role, a sequential lineup has been simulated in which the 49 participants (29 children between the age of five and eight, and 20 adults between the age of 18 and 36) had to identify a culprit they have seen one week before among four other suspects. Afterwards the participants performed in the CFMT. On the basis of developmental psychological research results we expected that 1) adult participants will be significantly better at identifying the culprit than children, that 2) female participants will be significantly better at identifying the culprit than male participants, and that 3) there will be a positive correlation between the performance in the CFMT and the performance in the culprit identification.

Project team: Dette, Diel, Müller, Weigelt

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Body Coding Mechanisms in 9- to 10-Year-Old Children and Young Adults

Aside from faces, bodies are also important social stimuli, whose importance is more and more recognized and investigated.
Bodies for example help us in recognizing the identity and emotional state of others.
However, little is known about processing and coding of human bodies in the adult brain and nothing at all about it in the child brain.
With a tablet-based, playful paradigm this study aims to investigate how children and adults code and store bodies in the brain and if there are differences between the age groups.
In the long term, this knowledge is also relevant in terms of atypical social perception, as for example in autism spectrum disorders.

Project team: Hönekopp, Weigelt, Koldewyn

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Learning seems difficult, forgetting sometimes even more.

Every day we steer through reality and learn to handle it in new ways, for example how to behave towards new and old acquaintances or how troublesome it can be when the operation of our mobile phone changes because of a new software update.
So far, research has shown that a complex interaction of associative and extinction learning enables us to perform these feats. By associative learning we mean the acquisition of new behaviour which we associate with a distinct context. Extinction learning is a process setting in when already acquired behaviour no longer serves the original purpose within a certain context and, thus, needs to be relearned for this specific context. For instance, being in the mood for joking does not always cheer up an angry friend. Hence, extinction does not only comprise the forgetting of old information but also includes a new learning process superimposing the once learned behaviour. Mechanisms concerning the initial acquisition of behaviour like learning how to write in primary school are well understood, whereas those of extinction learning lack thorough understanding.
We assume that the capacity to extinction learning develops from childhood to adolescence and are eager to examine the underlying developmental processes with your help. How does the brain forget or how does it overwrite old memory content? We are especially interested in the physiological embedding of associative and extinction learning in our brain and whether adults use different brain areas than children and adolescents.
For our study, we use simple experiments at the computer or tablet as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI-technology is a method which is non-invasive meaning harmless to our body, uses no ionizing radiation and is not known to have any side effects or negative long-term effects. In return, it offers us in-depth looks in the exciting architecture of our brain.
New insights in the field of extinction learning can be translated in the direct interaction with one another. For example, we can optimize the tuition at schools and develop new preventative and therapeutic programs for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders and enhance already existing ones.


Development of scene-selective brain regions from middle childhood to adulthood

In the SCENEPRO study, we investigate the development of brain regions that are specialized for the processing of scenes (e.g. landscapes or houses). The development of these brain regions and their reciprocal connections can possibly lead to new insights into how scene processing and other dependent processes - like spatial orientation - develop. To investigate the brain areas' development, we developed several tasks that will be worked on during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants will look at scenes and objects (as a comparison category) have to answer questions like "Was this picture presented twice in a row?" or "Did you see a small green cross in the picture?". Moreover, our participants will watch short video clips and relax and do nothing in the scanner for a short while.
40 seven-eight-year olds, 40 eleven-twelve-year olds and 20 adults will participate in the SCENEPRO study. All children will be accustomed to the fRMI-environment in a seperate training session prior to scanning in a child-friendly way.

Project team: Meissner, Weigelt

We submitted SCENEPRO as an abstract and presented it as a poster at the VSS Annual Meeting 2017 and the SfN Annual Meeting 2017.

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The Independent Contributions of Visual Spatial and Temporal Attention in Developmental Dyslexia

Developmental dyslexia (DD) is defined as a cognitive dysfunction which, despite normal intelligence and access to adequate reading instruction, negatively affects literacy acquisition. The symptoms of DD are diverse and impact everyone differently, but the core deficits involve difficulties with accurate or fluent reading and spelling. Previous research has found that pre-reading children at risk of DD already show visual attentional deficits and that these deficits can be used to reliably predict which children will later develop DD. It has also been found that just 12 hours of attentional training with a video game significantly improved reading abilities in dyslexic children. Presently, no single, reliable diagnostic test or reading remediation program exists, meaning that even if children are correctly diagnosed with DD, current reading interventions may not actually improve reading skills.
This study aims to address the question: do dyslexics subjects perform differently than control subjects on a task involving visual attentional expectations? To answer this question, we analyzed the reaction time and accuracy of 10 dyslexic participants and 10 control participants on a single word reading task and a visual attentional task on a computer. This study also investigated the independent contributions of spatial- and temporal- attentional cues on our experimental task. These findings could improve the efficacy of current interventions and allow for the generation of preventative reading interventions for pre-reading children at risk of DD.

Project team: Obreiter, Weigelt




The following studies have already been finished:

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Creation and Evaluation of a Database for Body-Stimuli

Our body has a very important role in our everyday life. Based on our physical constitution it allows us to perform different physical exercises and helps us to understand social situations. Thanks to the body we can detect the wellbeing and emotional status of other people. Additionally, it helps us to characterize and classify people in a way faces do, too - even without a social context at hand. There are databases including fotos of natural bodies and artificially created bodies – but only of adults. These fotos are used when exploring disorders which emerge during childhood and adolescence and are based on the perception of ones body (e.g. eating disorders). Instead of using images of adults while working with children and adolescents it would be better to use fotos of children’s and adolescent’s bodies because people identify rather with people their own age – the more similarities you have with someone else the more you identify with them. That’s why, with a database containing fotos of children‘s and adolescents‘ bodies, new, improved research would be possible. During our study we create a database with fotos showing the dressed bodies of children and adolescents and let this database be evaluated by students concerning different aspects (age, sex etc.).

Project team: Franke, Polesch, Weigelt

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This project investigates the development of category-selective brain regions in children and adolescents.

Face recognition undergoes prolonged development from childhood to adulthood, thereby raising the question which neural underpinnings are driving this development. Here, we address the development of the neural foundation of the ability to recognize a face across naturally varying images. Fourteen children (ages, 7–10) and 14 adults (ages, 20–23) watched images of either the same or different faces in a functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation paradigm. The same face was either presented in exact image repetitions or in varying images. Additionally, a subset of participants completed a behavioral task, in which they decided if the face in consecutively presented images belonged to the same person. Results revealed age-related increases in neural sensitivity to face identity in the fusiform face area. Importantly, ventral temporal face-selective regions exhibited more image-invariance – as indicated by stronger adaptation for different images of the same person – in adults compared to children. Crucially, the amount of adaptation to face identity across varying images was correlated with the ability to recognize individual faces in different images. These results suggest that the increase of image-invariance in face-selective regions might be related to the development of face recognition skills.

Project team: Nordt, Semmelmann, Genc, Weigelt

Results are published in our paper "Age-related increase of image-invariance in the fusiform face area" in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

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CARIN - Car Inversion

Are cars suitable as control stimuli in face recognition tasks?

Cars are often used as control stimuli in face recognition tasks. Usually faces are presented in front view, while cars are shown in profile view because it is widely assumed that cars in front view look like faces and might be processed as such. However, a systematic investigation of the suitability of cars in front view as control stimuli is missing. In order to answer the question whether cars in front view are processed like faces, we investigated inversion effects of cars and faces in both front and profile view. The (disproportionate) inversion effect describes a lower recognition performance for inverted faces than for upright faces, which is less pronounced for other visual object categories. We used a 2 x 2 x 2 within-subject design with factors category (faces, cars), perspective (front, profile), and orientation (upright, inverted). 31 healthy students (age 19 – 38, 21 female) participated in a face memory task. During the learning phase participants first viewed 10 items of one category and then 10 items of the respective other category. In the immediately following test phase, participants’ memory was tested in a 2-AFC task containing one old and one new item. Participants had to indicate the old item. A repeated measures ANOVA revealed 1) a significant main effect of perspective indicating better performance on front than profile view items 2) a significant main effect of orientation showing better performance on upright than inverted items and 3) a significant category x orientation interaction: For faces, the inversion effect was stronger than for cars (disproportionate inversion effect). Post-hoc t-tests showed inversion effects for faces in both front and profile views and for cars in profile view, but no inversion effect for cars in front view. Our results thus indicate that cars in front view are not processed like faces (as measured by the inversion effect) providing first evidence that cars indeed are suitable as control stimuli in face recognition tasks.

Project team: Weiland, Nordt, Sommer, Meissner, Semmelmann, Weigelt

- Recruitment for CARIN is paused.
- We submitted CARIN as an abstract to 49. DGPs Conference 2014 in Bochum.

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Development of Recognition Abilities of Social Stimuli in 9- to 10-Year-Old Children and Young Adults

Recognizing and discriminating between people are key abilities in everyday social life. Research aiming at understanding the development of these processes has extensively focused on the recognition of faces as social stimuli. However, little is known about how recognition abilities concerning other socially relevant stimuli, such as bodies, develop. The present study aimed at investigating developmental effects of memory and perceptual discrimination regarding different social stimuli (faces, bodies) in comparison to non-social stimuli (cars). Further, we examined whether sex biases in face recognition can also be found in body recognition. 21 nine- to ten-year-old children and 43 adult participants ran two-alternative-forced-choice (2AFC) tasks for memory and perceptual discrimination on a tablet computer. Results revealed that concerning perceptual discrimination, all stimulus categories displayed improvement into adulthood. Regarding memory, only face development demonstrated a similar effect, while there was no age difference for body and car recognition. However, there were no strong effects displaying whether development of face and body memory improved similarly or differently. Therefore, this study could not shed light to previous contradictory findings on the development of social recognition, making more research in this field necessary. Concerning sex biases, results displayed sex differences only regarding body recognition, showing a pro-male bias, which was independent of the participant’s age and sex.

Project team: Mount, Nordt, Weigelt

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Extinction learning in toddlers

It was aimed to shed light on extinction learning as well as the renewal effect in two distinct developmental phases: early infancy and childhood.
In Study 1, a balloon popping paradigm presented on a touch tablet was conducted. It consisted of an acquisition, extinction and renewal phase. 68 infants divided into three age groups (12 –24 months, 25 –36 months & 37–42 months) and 16 adults were tested. Drop-out rates, adjusted parameters, reaction times and the rate of experiences were analyzed proving the viability of the task in the tested age range. The time to extinction was shown to decrease with increasing age. Whereby, at 36 months the false alarm rate of children did no longer differ from that of adults. The assumed quantitative switch between erasure and inhibition, indicated by a renewal effect only being present for children older than 24 months, was not found.
In Study 2, a semantic picture priming paradigm was run with two second-graders. Both were taught reading and writing in German classes by using the textbook Tinto which applies the “Lesen durch Schreiben” approach (Reichen, 1988). A preliminary interview was conducted, revealing that about 40% of classes in primary schools in Bochum used this textbook. In the priming task correct, incorrect and individually incorrect words, the latter being learned in school and not orthographically corrected for up to two years were presented. ERP data, more precisely data of the P300 and N400, indicated that individually incorrect words were more semantically related to the prime than incorrect words. Concluding, it can be said that due to the delayed orthographic correction, these words are represented on a neuronal basis.

Project team: Terwiel, Weigelt

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Development and evaluation of a mock-scanner training for children

An important method in neuropsychology is the functional magnet resonance imaging, short (f)MRI. It is common within the research with adults, because it provides good temporal and spatial resolution without being invasive. However, (f)MRI is rarely seen in developmental research, because children might feel intimidated and stressed by the unknown fMRI-scanner. Various trainings to attack this problem have been developed over the last years. Some of these trainings work with a so-called mock-scanner, a device that mimics a real MRI-scanner. This study developed a mock-scanner-training, further expanding three previously used trainings. This has been evaluated by new experimental conditions not found in previous literature. Experimental and control group consisted of 4- to 10-year-old children. Both groups receive the training and a pseudo-scan inside the mock-scanner in different order. Several indicators have been examined at different times. The stress level in form of a questionnaire (ISAAC) and cortisol in the salvia. Activation of the sympathic nerve system through salivary alpha amylase and heart rate. Additionally, the children’s head movement has been measured.

Project team: Weiland, Weigelt

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Development of interhemispheric interaction in different sensory modalities in elementary school children.

Visual functions requiring interhemispheric transfer exhibit a long developmental trajectory up to age 12, which might be constrained by corpus callosum maturation. Here, we use electrophysiological and behavioral crossed-uncrossed differences (CUDs) in a visual Poffenberger paradigm to estimate the interhemispheric transfer time (IHTT)a measure of corpus callosum maturationin 7-year-old children and adults. Adults' electrophysiological CUDs were faster than 7-year-olds'. Behavioral CUDs did not differ and proved to be unreliable in a 6-month follow-up test. These findings suggest that the corpus callosum still undergoes development at the age of 7 that can only reliably be traced with neuroscientific methods.

Project team: Meissner, Weigelt
Cooperation with: Erhan Genc, Biopsychology, RUB

Results are published in our paper "Tracking the functional development of the corpus callosum in children using behavioral and evoked potential interhemispheric transfer times" in Developmental Neuropsychology.

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A new test to investigate memory for faces in kindergarden-aged children using touch-tablets.

In social interactions, perception and recognition of faces is very important. While adults possess a fully developed and highly specific cognitive and neuronal network for facial processing, children’s facial processing system undergoes a profound development. Our previous results revealed a remarkable increase of face recognition skills in school aged children, especially in comparison to object related recognition skills. However, it is still unclear how accurate face recognition is in kindergarden aged children. In order to answer this question, we will develop a new test. In general, it is very difficult to test children aged 2 to 5 years old, because they are not motivated to participate in visual preference paradigms (used in studies with newborns). At the same time, long psychophysiological experiments are not suitable for this age group either. We want to meet this challenge using a behavioral test in form of a game, which is played on touch-tablets. During the game, the child sees a card. Tapping the card turns it and reveals a face. The child is instructed to categorize the images by gender by dragging the face on the touch surface. After having classified 10 images, 2 different cards are presented. One of the cards shows a face just seen before, while the other one shows a new face. The child has to drag a sweet on the face just seen before. Using this test, which provides a high level of participation and control, we hope to capture the children’s interest. Thus, it will be possible to get direct behavioral data to shed light on children’s face recognition abilities. If our method is successful, it will facilitate answering lots of exciting questions about the development of perception and action in children aged 2 to 5.

Project team: Sommer, Nordt, Weigelt

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Development of face memory: a question of viewpoint.

There is an ongoing debate on the question when face processing abilities mature. One aspect that has been part of this debate is the ability to recognize faces in and across different viewpoints. Here, we tested 128 participants consisting of school-age children (ages, 5–10 years) and adults (ages, 19–37 years) in two experiments to investigate the effects of different viewpoints (including front, three-quarter, profile view) on face recognition during development. Furthermore, we compared recognition performance for faces to that of another object category (cars). In the first experiment (n = 88) we tested if the pattern of performance for faces presented in different viewpoints is similar in school-aged children and adults. Participants completed a two-alternative-forced-choice (2AFC) memory task comprising images of both faces and cars in front, three-quarter and profile view, which were presented in the same viewpoint during learning and testing. In the second experiment (n = 40) we tested if face recognition is similarly affected by viewpoint changes in children and adults. In this experiment the 2AFC memory task included a change of viewpoint between learning and testing. While in both experiments we found higher recognition performance for faces with increasing age, the overall pattern of both viewpoint and viewpoint-change-effects and also the difference between view-change- and no-change-conditions was similar across age groups. In contrast to faces, no viewpoint effects were observed in cars (experiment 1), viewpoint change effects, however, were similar for cars and faces (experiment 2). In sum, our results suggest early maturity of the ability to recognize faces in and across different viewpoints.

Project team: Nordt, Weigelt

Results are published in our paper "Face recognition is similarly affected by viewpoint in school-aged children and adults" in PeerJ.

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How do paraphernalia influence face recognition in children?

Face recognition has a huge impact on our everyday life and a lot of research focuses on its’ development. However, little is known about face recognition in the presence of paraphernalia, such as glasses, hats or scarves.
In our study “hats and glasses” children between four and nine years and an adult control group were tested on a face recognition task on a tablet computer. First, participants learned several faces by sorting them with regard to their gender. Afterwards, pairs of faces were shown. One face was already learned in the sorting task, the other face was new to the participants. Sometimes paraphernalia (hats and glasses) were added, removed or changed between learning and recognition.
Results revealed, that participants of all age groups were affected by the presence of paraphernalia. When paraphernalia were kept constant between learning and recognition, they increased the face recognition performance. In contrast, changing, adding and removing paraphernalia led to worse performance. Trials with glasses were more difficult to the participants than trials with hats. This might be the case, because glasses cover the eyes, an important region for face recognition. In addition, glasses were changed less frequently than hats and therefore were perceived as a part of the face to a greater extent than hats.

Project team: Röhnke, Weigelt

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Rechts herum und links herum: Wie gut werden gedrehte Gesichter erinnert?

Gesichter spielen für uns Menschen im Alltag eine wichtige Rolle, von der Unterscheidung einzelner Personen bis hin zur Erkennung von Stimmung und Emotionen. In der bisherigen Forschung zur Gesichtserkennung wurde festgestellt, dass es Menschen leichter fällt, aufrechte Gesichter zu erkennen und wiederzuerkennen als invertierte Gesichter (also um 180° gedrehte Gesichter). Dieser Effekt nennt sich der Gesichts Inversions-Effekt. Allerdings wurde bisher kaum erforscht, wie gut Gesichter erinnert werden, die nur um 90° gedreht wurden und in wie weit es einen Unterschied zwischen nach links und nach rechts gedrehten Gesichtern gibt. Hier setzt die vorliegende Studie an, indem sie der Frage nachgeht, wie gut die Erinnerungsleistung von um 90 Grad gedrehten Gesichtern im Vergleich zu aufrechten und invertierten Gesichtern bei jungen Erwachsenen im Alter von 20-23 Jahren ist und in wie weit ein Zusammenhang zur Leserichtung besteht.

Projektteam: Rosenthal, Weigelt

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Viewpoint dependent face detection in preschool children using a touch-tablet based paradigm

Providing social information such as gender and mood, faces are crucial to the social life of humans. Face memory and recognition processes have been broadly studied. However, little is known about face detection, which is a precondition of every further processing. Therefore, in the present study the development of face detection abilities of 102 preschool children (aged 2, 3, 4 and 5 years) were investigated using touch-tablets. A complex visual search task comparing detection performance of cars and faces was used. It was found that the detection performance for faces and cars grows with age, not showing a stronger increase in face detection abilities but a large advantage in detecting faces compared to cars. Furthermore, the influence of view was examined. No difference between the detection of faces in frontal and profile view was found. However, cars in a profile view were detected significantly slower over all age groups. These results are partly in line with prior research on face detection where adults as well show a face advantage. In contrast to our results, adults show a detection advantage for frontal over profile faces, whereas in the present study this effect was evident for cars.

Project team: Prüfer, Meissner, Weigelt

Results are accepted in our paper "Development of Face Detection in Preschool Children" in International Journal of Behavioral Development.

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Thinking with Portals - Training spatial abilities by playing video games

In contrast to the evergreen debate about the link between video games and aggression, there is also a growing pile of literature about their potential to “playfully” enhance our cognitive capabilities. For example, the promotional effects of action video games on a broad array of attention capabilities is supported by multiple studies. Now, research begins to also shift to other types of games and their effects on different cognitive abilities – among them are 3D puzzle games and their ability to promote spatial skills (e.g. mental rotation and spatial navigation). This study focuses on these using an 8h training program on non-video game players utilizing the popular 3D puzzle game “Portal”. Knowledge gained from this and similar study could help with understanding the unintentionally achieved cognitive training effects of conventional video games. By gaining insight on their source, the possibility of designing both effective and fun intervention methods for both cognitive developmental disorders in children and cognitive impairments in general arises.

Project team: Nolte, Weigelt

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TOL - The online lab

Is the Internet suitable for psychological research?

Using the Internet to acquire behavioral data is currently on the rise. However, very basic questions regarding the feasibility of online psychophysics are still open. Here, we aimed to replicate five well-known paradigms in experimental psychology (Stroop, Flanker, visual search, masked priming, attentional blink) in three settings (classical “lab”, “web-in-lab”, “web”) to account for possible changes in technology and environment. Lab and web-in-lab data were both acquired in an in-lab setting with lab using “Gold Standard” methods, while web-in-lab used web technology. This allowed for a direct comparison of potential differences in acquisition software. To account for additional environmental differences, the web technology experiments were published online to participate from home (setting web), thereby keeping the software and experimental design identical and only changing the environmental setting. Our main results are: First, we found an expected fixed additive timing offset when using web technology (M = 37 ms, SD = 8.14) and recording online (M = 87 ms, SD = 16.04) in comparison to lab data. Second, all task-specific effects were reproduced except for the priming paradigm, which couldn’t be replicated in any setting. Third, there were no differences in error rates, which are independent of the timing offset. This finding further supports the assumption of data equality over all settings. Fourth, we found that browser type might be influencing absolute reaction times. Together, these results contribute to the slowly but steadily growing literature that online psychophysics is a suitable complement – or even substitute – to lab data acquisition.

Project team: Semmelmann, Weigelt

Results are published in our paper "Online psychophysics: reaction time effects in cognitive experiments" in Behavior Research Methods.

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TOLbam - The online lab: Babycam

Online experimentation is emerging as a new methodology within classical data acquisition in psychology. It allows for easy, fast, broad, and cheap data conduction from the comfort of people’s homes. To add another method to the array of available tools, here we used recent developments in web technology to investigate the technical feasibility of online HyperText Markup Language-5/JavaScript-based video data recording. We employed a preferential looking task with children between 4 and 24 months. Parents and their children participated from home through a three-stage process: First, interested adults registered and took pictures through a webcam-based photo application. In the second step, we edited the pictures and integrated them into the design. Lastly, participants returned to the website and the video data acquisition took place through their webcam. In sum, we were able to create and employ the video recording application with participants as young as 4 months old. Quality-wise, no participant had to be removed due to the framerate or quality of videos and only 7% of data was excluded due to behavioral factors (lack of concentration). Results-wise, interrater reliability of rated looking side (left/right) showed a high agreement between raters, Fleiss’ Kappa, κ = 0.97, which can be translated to sufficient data quality for further analyses. With regard to on-/off-screen attention attribution, we found that children lost interest after about 10 s after trial onset using a static image presentation of 60 s total experimental time. Taken together, we were able to show that online video data recording is possible and viable for developmental psychology and beyond.
Project team: Semmelmann, Hönekopp, Weigelt

Results are published in our paper "Looking Tasks Online: Utilizing Webcams to Collect Video Data from Home" in Frontiers in Psychology.

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