Tablets and Smartphones are omnipresent in our society, and more and more schools have started to use tablets in classrooms. Considering perceptual and cognitive factors, it remains unclear for which tasks the user can really profit from the use of tablets.

In this project, perceptual and cognitive aspects of tablet use are investigated. An interesting effect in perception is the “near-hand effect”, according to which perception and cognitive processing is modulated for the space near/between our hands. Previous research points out two effects: 1) heightened attention for the near-hand space (which can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the task), and 2) a difference in the weighting of semantic and spatial information of stimuli near hands. The latter effect is based on the fact that we have two different neuronal processing pathways in our brain – one for perception (focus on semantic features) and one for action (focus on spatial/action-relevant features). Recent research suggests that stimuli near hands are processes that occur more strongly through the action-oriented path, at the cost of the semantic path. For example, a decrease in reading comprehension has been found near hands. Given that we hold tablets in our hands during most applications, it is important to explore and understand such “near-hand” effect including for the use of tablets. In this project, attentional effects are investigated by analysis of eye movements during visual search tasks on tablets, and semantic processing is investigated by means of reading comprehension and memory tasks.


Matthias Maalouli-Hartmann Associate Professor
Research Assistant
Livio Hardegger Research Assistant