2015 - 2017 The social side of news: Attitude formation and expression in social networking sites under conditions of impression motivation

Applicant: Stephan Winter

Funding: This project is funded by the German Research Foundation.

Social media such as Facebook are increasingly used as sources of information and for discussions on political and societal topics. While these sites were originally seen as a tool for social contacts and private communication, recent studies recognized their role as primary platforms in which recipients are exposed to news and current debates, especially the younger parts of the population. The context of social media is characterized by a convergence of mass and interpersonal communication (e.g., with a juxtaposition of an article published by a news media organization and comments written by laypersons) as well as by a high level of visibility with regard to the actions of the individual user (e.g., when status updates and likes are visible for the entire contact list). Against this background, the project investigates the mechanisms of attitude formation and expression in social networking sites (SNS) in comparison to previous forms of websites. Based on the heuristic-systematic model of information processing (Chaiken, Giner-Sorolla, & Chen, 1996) and the high importance of impression management in the context of SNS, it can be assumed that the evaluation of incoming information is already influenced more strongly by considerations of majority opinion and self-presentation, since SNS readers more frequently anticipate (public) discussions with others than readers of traditional news sources. Four laboratory experiments address the conditions under which SNS settings elicit this form of impression-motivated information processing and the question of how subsequent opinion expressions (e.g., via status update) and communication in the network consolidate the given attitude. As independent variables, the media context (SNS vs. “Web 1.0”) and the type of presented information are manipulated. The first two studies investigate the process of attitude formation based on news articles (Study 1) and reader comments (Study 2). Study 3A and Study 3B deal with the consequences of public attitude expression for the private attitude and the effects of feedback that is given by other SNS users. On a theoretical level, the project aims at specifying the heuristic-systematic model for online and social media settings and at integrating the process of attitude expression. Furthermore, results will extend prior SNS research, which mainly focused on private contacts so far, and add to our knowledge on current media phenomena with regard to the dynamics of public opinion (which may lead to a focus on popular topics and opinions instead of a thorough consideration of the quality of arguments).

2015 - 2018 KOMPASS

Socially cooperative virtual assistants as daily companions for people in need of support

Project employee: Dr. Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten, Carolin Strassmann, M.Sc., Maria Kovtunenko, B.Sc., Jule Trepmann
Funding: This research project is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research.

2014 - 2015 noALIEN

Using linguistic alignment in German language promotion for immigrants on the basis of human-technology interaction

Project employee: Dr. Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten, Maria Kovtunenko, B.Sc.
Funding: This research project is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research.

2011 - 2013 Reception of Online Science Information – Factors of Selection and Attitude Formation


Project employees: Dr. Stephan Winter; German Neubaum, M. Sc.; Leonie Rösner, M. Sc.

(Special Priority Program „Science and the General Public: Understanding Fragile and Conflicting Scientific Evidence”, funded by the German Research Foundation)

The Internet provides a multitude of information on science related issues, e.g. in Web 2.0 applications such as blogs or wikis. This research project focuses on how laypersons deal with user-generated content on controversial scientific issues. Based on insights of the first project phase, five experimental studies will be conducted to address remaining questions on processes of selection and, especially, how attitudes are formed through scientific information. In particular, this project will analyze to what extent the tendency to select complex, two-sided information (Krämer & Winter, submitted) has an influence on attitude formation and whether recipients take into account that scientific findings are complex and tentative. In addition to the variation of text form (one-sided and assertive vs. two-sided and coercive) and source expertise, the recipients’ characteristics (cognitive capability, educational background, epistemological beliefs) will be included.  Based on the results of the studies of the first and second project phase, a detailed model of selection, information processing and attitude formation with regard to online science information will be developed. This will be used to derive methods to increase individual media competence – the effectiveness of these measurements will be tested empirically.

2010 - 2013 Foodweb 2.0

Development, testing and evaluation of Web 2.0 technologies to further education and innovation within the nutrition industry


Project employee: Nicole Sträfling; M. Sc.; Bao Trinh; Jenny-Maria Issel
partners: reflactAG; Foodprocessing Initiative (FPI) e.V.; innowise GmbH, bfw – Unternehmen für Bildung; Lebensmittel-insititut KIN e.V.; NEW.S Nordrhein-Westfälische ErnährungsWirtschaft – Sozialpartnerprojekt e.V.; Zentralfachschule der Deutschen Süßwarenwirtschaft e.V. (ZDS)
Förderung: Dieses Vorhaben wird aus Mitteln des Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschung und aus dem Europäischen Sozialfonds der Europäischen Union gefördert.

The project FoodWeb 2.0 wants to meet the challenge of developing and establishing a platform which is independent from time and place. Apart from conventional E-learning, the platform offers new web 2.0 technologies such as communication and interaction features. The project focuses on the interaction between the users and on the development of a knowledge/learner community. Adequate incentive systems will be developed to motivate, employees of different companies within the nutrition industry participate and share their knowledge with others and consequently acquire knowledge from others. Transfer and generation of knowledge are supported by current web 2.0 technologies. Content is no longer static – because of the possibility to comment on other users knowledge content becomes dynamic.

In the beginning of the project, an analysis of needs regarding possible usage motifs and wishes of the employees will be conducted in order to ensure early adaptation of the platform to the needs of different target groups. Additionally, other surveys regarding usage pattern (such as preferred applications) will be conducted. Another analysis specifically designed for the target group of the menial qualified employees (qualitative interviews) is planned. Based on research results (Cress, 2005) a concept consisting of specific incentive systems addressing different target groups will be developed.

2009 - 2011 The relative importance of information source and information complexity for selection and processing of science information in the Internet

DFG-Projekt in SPP 1409 "Science and the General Public: Understanding Fragile and Conflicting Scientific Evidence”

Project employee: Stephan Winter, MSc

The Internet is increasingly used for obtaining information on science related everyday issues. As the World Wide Web is currently developing in the direction of user generated content, one can increasingly find information that has been provided by lay-persons via blogs or forums. Against this background, it is analyzed whether current - mainly cognitive - models for information seeking have to be amended by social- and media psychological approaches. Especially it is tested whether findings from persuasion research can be transferred to seeking and choosing information. In three successive experimental and quasi-experimental laboratory studies the relative influence of given and attributed expertise of the source, the design of the message as well as individual capacity for information processing will be identified. Based on social- and media psychological theories (Yale studies on persuasion, elaboration likelihood model, selective exposure, knowledge gap hypotheses) it is assumed that - besides information on the source - especially the design of the message is a criterion for the selection of specific information. It is hypothesized that fragile, two-sided messages will be avoided by persons who have limited capacity for information processing due to missing (prior) knowledge.

As exemplary scenario the discussion on science related information on the controversy with respect to the effects of violent media contents on children and adolescents is chosen.

2009 - 2010 SERA

Social Engagement with Robots and Agents (SERA), EU 7th Framework Programme, Strep ICT


Project employee: Sabrina Eimler, M. A., M. Sc.; Astrid von der Pütten, M. Sc.
: Österreichische Studiengesellschaft für Kybernetik, University of Sheffield UK, University of Twente, Netherlands

Getting people to engage with robotic and virtual artifacts is easy, but keeping them engaged over time is hard: robots and agents lack some fundamental capabilities which can be summarized as sociability. Sociability involves perceptiveness of and responsiveness to individuals' and groups' needs, moods, habits, situations, cultural background, social norms and conventions. The research community has realized the problem, but approaches, so far, have been dispersed and disjoint. If robots and agents are to become companions in people’s lives, with assistive, coaching, monitoring, or educational roles, they will have to blend into these lives seamlessly.

SERA is innovative in that it addresses sociability holistically, by advancing knowledge about what sociability in robots and agents entails, by developing methodology to analyze and evaluate it, and by making available research resoures and platforms. SERA will, to this purpose, undertake reallife extended field studies of users’ engagement with robotic devices. Sociablity has also to be built into robot and agent architectures from scratch. The goal here is to research and to implement an architecture that caters for both background (cultural, normative etc.) and situational individual (theory of mind, adaptivity, responsiveness) practices and needs of users, with the guiding principle of pervasive affectivity. Assistive robots and agents who are to become true companions, e.g. for elderly or homebound people, have to be versatile in functionality and identity (style, personality) depending on the service they are required to deliver, such as (reactive) social mediators, as (in turn reactive and proactive) information assistants, or as (proactive) coaches or monitors e.g. with health-related tasks. SERA will develop pilots of such intertwined interactive service applications for a robotic device.

2008 - 2010 Assessing and Augmenting Instructional Communication in Computer-Supported Settings

DFG-Network (with N. Rummel)

The network initiative will focus on instructional communication in computer-supported settings. Goals when analyzing instructional communication are: 1) understanding variables associated with successful communication in instructional settings, and 2) deducing principles in order to design instructional communication more effectively.

In line with these goals, the objective of this initiative is to establish a network among researchers from the areas of educational/cognitive psychology, computer science/educational technology and communication/social psychology whose work focuses on different aspects of instructional communication in computer-supported settings. We aim at pooling competences in order to arrive at a comprehensive account of factors relevant for instructional communication in computer-supported settings. Furthermore, we seek to achieve synergies by discussing and experimenting with our differing methodological approaches to analyzing instructional communication. Third, we plan to discuss prerequisites and develop future guidelines for adaptive, individualized instructional communication in computer-supported instructional settings.

Participants of the network are German researchers from centers of excellence in the targeted field of research, and some U.S. researchers, partly located at Science of Learning Centers. With the scientific network we to create a framework to support us in working towards joint goals in a systematic way across three workshops and with the objective to compile a corresponding special issue in a major international journal, a methodological paper, and a review article by the participating junior scientists.


  • Dr. Katrin Allmendinger
  • Dr. Robert Atkinson
  • Dr. Andy Beall
  • Prof. Dr. Gary Bente
  • Prof. Dr. Jim Blascovich
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Harrer
  • Prof. Dr. Regina Jucks
  • Prof. Dr. Ken Koedinger
  • Prof. Dr. Nicole Krämer (network applicant)
  • Prof. Dr. Detlev Leutner
  • Dr. Bruce McLaren
  • Prof. Dr. Matthias Nückles
  • Prof. Dr. Alexander Renkl
  • Dr. Nikol Rummel (network applicant)
  • Prof. Dr. Hans Spada
  • Prof. Dr. Joachim Wirth
  • Dr. Jörg Wittwer


  • Dr. Kirsten Berthold
  • Anne Meier
  • Elisabeth Paus
  • Erin Walker


  • Rummel, N. & Krämer, N. C. (accepted). Special Issue: Instructional Communication in Computer-Supported Settings: Multidisciplinary efforts towards adaptiveness. Educational Psychology Review.
  • Krämer, N. & Bente, G. (submitted). Personalising e-learning. The social effects of pedagogical agents. Educational Psychology Review.

2008 - 2009 Disaster Readiness through education

(EU, Life Long Learning Programme)


Project Employee: Dipl.-Medienwiss. Nina Haferkamp

Nowhere in the world is immune from disasters: earthquakes, floods, extreme weather, industrial accidents, terrorist attacks, epidemics. The key to reducing mortality and damage is advance planning. Those at risk need to learn how to react to specific events (e.g. earthquakes). And to do this they also need “soft skills”: communication and understanding of information under conditions of stress, problem-solving with partial or contradictory information, decision-making in the face of competing demands. DREAD-ED’s proposes an innovative, technology-based teaching methodology to meet these needs. The proposed methodology will provide cost-effective training to a broad range of different target populations: members of the emergency forces, decision-makers in local and central government and in industry, school teachers, school principals, as well as pupils in primary and secondary education. DREAD-ED methodology is based on the concept of experiential learning: to acquire new competences, learners should be placed in situations where they can experiment under safe conditions. To this end, the project will adopt a blended strategy in which classroom teaching is complemented by tutor-supervised role-playing in a PC-based, online Virtual Environment, accessible from their homes and offices. Within the virtual environment, learners from different backgrounds will cooperate to simulate group interactions and individual decision-making during a disaster. At the end of each session, learners and tutor will watch and discuss recordings of the session, identifying strategies leading to improved outcomes. DREAD-ED will document the proposed methodology, design and implement the virtual environment, design the specific scenarios to be used during the training, set up and manage the technological infrastructure required to deliver the training, and test the training on three test sites in France, Germany and Italy. The tests will take place in two rounds of evaluation. The first round of “formative evaluation” (in year 1) will be designed to improve the design of the methodology and the technology tools; the second “summative evaluation” (in year 2) will test its effectiveness in terms of use, drop-out rates, learning outcomes and user satisfaction (satisfaction of learners, teachers and other stakeholders). The trials will involve different disaster scenarios (an earthquake, an escape of poisonous gas from a chemical factory, pollution of a major river) and different target populations in each country. The evaluation of outcomes will be based on a shared evaluation protocol. A major effort will be dedicated to valorization. This effort will include two international seminars (in Germany and in Italy), publications, contacts with media and the creation of a public web site.


Haferkamp, N. & Krämer, N. C. (2008). Training disaster communication by means of virtual environments. Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, October 2008, Soesterberg, Netherlands.