"Applied cognitive mechanics"
- A risky analogy between mechanics and cognition
in the study of human multitasking


The aim of this project is to explore the analogy between mechanical processes and cognitive processes in the area of human multitasking (which we term "applied cognitive mechanics"), with special reference to age-related performance decrements. "Applied cognitive mechanics" is a new interdisciplinary research idea that has hardly been investigated up to now. We aim at exploring whether formal modeling approaches of applied mechanics can be fruitfully combined with the empirical approaches of cognitive psychology. To this end, we plan an empirical study on age-related multitasking costs to provide crucial empirical constraints for testing a generic formal model, which we will develop based on conceptual ideas. It should be noted that this project is a risky interdisciplinary project because it is unclear whether it can be successful. We define three criteria for success. First, it should be possible to generate a model with suitable processing characteristics. Second, it should generate new empirical research questions (i.e., have heuristic value), and third, it should inspire potential transfer into neighboring fields and generate research outside of the experimental psychology lab. Combining scientific innovation with strong interdisciplinarity, the project will cover core issues on the research and strategy agenda of RWTH Aachen University. Due to the new modeling framework, which should be also applicable to increase the efficiency of management processes, the project offers an excellent platform to integrate researchers from ergonomics and economical sciences in further steps. The research represents an interesting contribution to several interdisciplinary profile areas of RWTH Aachen University, in particular "Computational Science and Engineering", "Information and Communication Technology" and "Production Engineering". Further, we contribute to research on three of the global challenges "health", "demography" and "knowledge society".


Principal investigators

Faculty of Civil Engineering (FB3)

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Stefanie Reese
Institute of Applied Mechanics
RWTH Aachen University
Mies-van-der-Rohe-Str. 1, D-52074 Aachen
Phone: +49 (0)241-8025000

Philosophical Faculty (FB7)

Prof. Dr. phil. Iring Koch
Institute of Psychology I
RWTH Aachen University
Jägerstr. 17/19, D-52066 Aachen
Phone: +49 (0)241-8096012