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Ongoing and completed research projects Psychology

Published: 20 April 2021

Communication solution for safe and efficient autonomous vehicle-to-pedestrian interaction

Interaction between drivers and pedestrians is often facilitated by informal communicative cues, like hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. In the near future, however, when semi- and fully autonomous vehicles are introduced into the traffic system, drivers will gradually assume the role of mere passengers, who are casually engaged in non-driving-related activities and, therefore, unavailable to participate in traffic interaction. In this novel traffic environment, advanced communication interfaces will need to be developed that inform pedestrians of the current state and future behavior of an autonomous vehicle, in order to maximize safety and efficiency for all road users.

Human–machine interfaces that utilize the external surface and the immediate surroundings of the vehicle have been proposed as a possible solution to the communication problem road users will soon face in their attempts to interact with autonomous vehicles. The development of our external human-machine interface has now entered the evaluation phase. Preliminary results from empirical studies employing human participants confirm the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed solution.

Collaborators: Alexandros Rouchitsas and Håkan Alm
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Alexandros Rouchitsas ,


The role of emotions in cognitive and physical performance during competition among elite athletes

Sporting excellence requires athletes to successfully execute cognitive and physical tasks. Athletes’ emotions have been shown to influence cognitive and physical subcomponents of performance. During competition athletes are required to appraise situations, make decisions, and implement strategy; as physical fatigue increases managing cognitive load becomes more difficult. However, limited research has investigated athletes’ cognitive performance during competition. Moreover, athletes’ emotions during competition have not been empirically examined in relation to simultaneous cognitive and physical performance. This project aims to investigate the interaction of cognitions, emotions, and physiological responses during performance of physical and cognitive tasks in competition.

Collaborators:  Dr. Paul Davis (Umeå University), Dr. Andreas Stenling (Umeå University), Dr. Daniel Sörman (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Prof. Alan St Clair Gibson (University of Hull, UK)
Funder: Centrum för idrottsforskning / The Swedish Research Council for Sport Science, 2020-2021
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Daniel Sörman,

Relationships between cognitive abilities and level of competition in ice hockey

An important aspect of competitive sports is the ability to assess and evaluate current skills related to the specific sport and to identify potential development areas. Today, most sports have good opportunities to quantify technical skills and various objective physiological measures. One area that is less developed, however, is how to assess cognitive abilities necessary for successful sports performance. Knowledge of this can have implications for both sports science knowledge as well as applied practice and may be a tool to develop cognitive skills necessary to progress further as an athlete. Plausibly even more so at the highest competitive levels where small details often can be crucial to take the new step forward. By including ice hockey players at different competitive levels, we aim to identify what cognitive skills that distinguish an elite athlete from a lower-level athlete (i.e., expert vs. novice). The rationale for ice hockey is that the game places high demands on executive functions and quick decision-making.

Collaborators: Dr. Daniel Sörman (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Dr. Paul Davis (Umeå University), Dr. Andreas Stenling (Umeå University),
Funder: Centrum för idrottsforskning / The Swedish Research Council for Sport Science, 2021-2022
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Daniel Sörman,

Better reading fluency with morphological training? An intervention study for children with decoding disorders and typical readers

Current teaching methods aim to improve young children’s reading by practicing phonological skills. Those methods are effective in the earliest phases of reading development but not for improving reading fluency. For individuals with reading disorders, problems with fluent reading typically last into adulthood. Knowledge on how to improve reading fluency is missing to date. This project will investigate how morphological awareness intervention affects reading development in 8-9-year-old children. Effects on reading fluency is the focus of this research but effects on reading comprehension and word reading will also be studied. Children with reading disorders and typical readers will participate and we will study effects of the intervention in both groups.

Collaborators: Malin Wass (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Prof. Janne von Koss Torkildsen (University of Oslo), Prof. Birgitta Sahlén (Lund University), Prof. Björn Lyxell (University of Oslo)
Funder: Swedish research council / Vetenskapsrådet, 2021-2024
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Malin Wass,

Memory and language: A perceptual-motor approach to verbal sequence learning

This research is set within the broader theme of critically re-examining the classical and received view that short-term memory function is fulfilled by a dedicated set of specialized modules within the cognitive architecture. In this research we develop and explore an alternative view according to which short-term retention and longer-term sequence memory is a by-product, or side-effect, of perceptual and motor skills that are general-purpose evolving to support immediate bodily interactions with the environment. The specific aim is to address whether verbal sequence learning reflects a secondary product of the processes of perception (e.g., auditory-perceptual organization) and motor processing (e.g., speech planning) that are involved in perceiving the world and acting upon it.

Funder: Leverhulme Trust, 2017-2021
Collaborators:  Dr Rob Hughes (Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr John E. Marsh (Engineering Psychology, LTU & University of Central Lancashire), Prof. Fabien Mathy (Université Côte d'Azur)
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: John Everett Marsh,

Understanding the Disruption to Reading by Background Sound

The mere presence of background sound can have an adverse effect on visual tasks, despite the differences in modalities. This work seeks to determine why reading in the presence of background sound is often impaired. Through manipulations of the meaningfulness of the background sound and the type of processing demanded by the reading task (reading for sense vs. proof reading), and with the use of state-of-the-art eye-tracking methodologies, we attempt to characterize the nature of the auditory distraction to reading. Our preliminary investigations suggest that speech in a participant’s mother tongue (and hence meaningful) produces disruption to reading—as revealed through an array of eye-tracking measures—compared with meaningless speech and quiet. However, this disruption is modulated by the nature of the focal reading task with effects observed when the task is to decide whether a sentence make sense, but not if involves detection of a nonword. The findings have implications for accounts of auditory distraction that are process-based as opposed to content- or attention-based.

Collaborators: John E. Marsh (Engineering psychology, LTU, & University of Central Lancashire), Prof. Simon Liversedge (University of Central Lancashire), Dr Zhu Meng (Tianjin Normal University), Dr Federica Degno (University of Central Lancashire)
Funder: Experimental Psychological Society, 2020-2021.
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: John Everett Marsh,

Improving the Recognition of Composites through Cuing

This research concerns the area of facial composites – computer-generated likeness of the faces of offenders, constructed by witnesses and vitcims of crime, to allow law enforcement to solve crimes. This project seeks to make facial composites as effective as possible by the manipulation of various cues including those relating to physical appearance, semantic knowledge, and context. Endeavours are typically made to apply knowledge gleaned from laboratory work to forensic settings to produce high identification rates of composites of offenders released to the general public within the context of media such as newspapers and television.

Collaborators:  Prof. Charlie Frowd (University of Central Lancashire), Dr John E. Marsh (Engineering Psychology, LTU & University of Central Lancashire
Funder: None at present, ongoing
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: John Everett Marsh,

Sensory distraction and heterogeneous cognitive functioning in adults with ADHD

When children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) grow up, many of them have a decrease in symptoms and no longer need treatment. But there are also some whose symptoms continue to present challenges in everyday life, whether that’s studying at university or learning a profession. ADHD in adults is an under-studied area. What compounds this problem is that some adults never showed any ADHD symptoms in childhood, making it possible that attention disorders in adults are distinct from childhood ADHD and require different treatments compared to childhood ADHD.

The first aim of this project is examine the current state of research on cognitive interventions for adults with ADHD using a systematic review and meta-analysis. There are attempts to train the attention using computer software, and we want to know if these are beneficial. The next aim of this project will be to investigate attention functioning more closely, with a focus on distraction. Are individuals with ADHD more likely to get distracted than cognitively healthy individuals? We also want to know if there are certain types of distractions which are especially distracting for those with attention disorders. For example, while reading a book, would it be more difficult to concentrate with music in the background or with people walking around in the background? We hope that any functional differences in adults with ADHD could provide clues for future treatments that target specific sensory modalities.

Funder: PhD project, 2020 – 2024´
Collaborators:  Pia Elbe (Engineering Psychology, LTU) Daniel Sörman (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Mariana Vega Mendoza (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Lars Nyberg (Umeå Center for Functional Brain Imaging, Umeå University), Jessica K. Ljungberg (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Hanna Malmberg Gavelin (Department of Psychology, Umeå University)
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Pia Elbe,

Investigating video game addiction: A new psychiatric disorder 

In recent years, playing video games has become one of the most common leisure activities among children and adults alike. For the vast majority, video game entails an enriching social platform and leads to increased well being. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that video games can negatively affect a small portion of the general population. Consequently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has included Gaming Disorder in the International Classification of Diseases-11, expected to be released in 2022. Several risk factors have been identified for gaming disorder, including neurobiological factors, personality factors, and motivational factors. Furthermore, specific motivations have been suggested as key factors for future treatment and intervention programs. 

As a result of the increasing research interest in this condition, numerous definitions and variations of assessment tools have become available to capture and measure gaming disorder and motivational factors. This growing availability of screening tools is leading to inconsistent measures across the research field. Thus, we initially aim to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to get a descriptive overview of the association between gaming disorder and video gaming motives for the first time. Next, we aim to perform validation studies of gaming disorder instruments, which will allow us to investigate the relationship between psychological factors and gaming disorder in a Swedish context.

Funder: PhD project, 2020 – 2024
Collaborators: Christian Bäcklund (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Pia Elbe (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Daniel Sörman (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Mariana Vega Mendoza (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Jessica K. Ljungberg (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Hanna Malmberg Gavelin (Department of Psychology, Umeå University)
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Christian Bäcklund,

Streamlining behavior and learning in fighter pilot education in Sweden

In this project, fighter pilots' experiences and behaviors in simulated and real flight situations and the importance of personality for the outcome are studied during pilot training. The aim of the project is to bring clarity to the importance of personality for pilots' behavior, actual consequences of acute stress during flight, and the transferability of flight simulator training to real-life situations. The goal is to eventually implement the new knowledge in the pilot training for fighter pilots in the Armed Forces with the intention of streamlining learning and increasing safety.

Funder: SAAB Support and Services AB, Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation, Umeå University. 2018-2023
Collaborators: Prof. Jessica K. Ljungberg (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Assoc Prof. Anna-Sara Claeson (Umeå University), Dr. Markus Nyström (Umeå University), PhD-student Malcolm Sehlström (Umeå University).
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Jessica Köning-Ljungberg,

Train dispatcher's work environment

The project studies the work of train dispatchers with the aim of improving their work environment and decision-making. The project uses observations, interviews and questionnaires to be able to measure when the dispatchers experience stress or boredom. The project will also use equipment from DEPICT-Lab to study eye movements, measure activity level (skin conductance) and concentration (pupil size). The measurements are made to create a basis for discussion for further interviews about the type of information or event that preceded a certain decision, reaction and physiological response. The questions that the project intends to answer are of the type: what information is needed to support decision-making, what causes stress or boredom, can the work be transformed to counteract stress or boredom and improve decision-making?

Funder: Trafikverket, t o m 2023
Collaborators:  Camilla Grane (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Lisa Öman Ekervhén (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Bjarne Berquist (Kvalitetsteknik och logistik, LTU)
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Camilla Grane,

Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems, SIMS

SIMS aimed to develop, test and demonstrate new innovative technologies for mining operations. Our part in the project was to investigate miners acceptance of new technologies, especially new communication devices and positioning technologies. Our work included interviews with miners at Boliden and a questionnaire study with miners at LKAB and KGHM (Poland). We also summarized relevant theories and developed guidelines for the industry, which were published as three book chapters.

Funder: Horizon 2020, 2017-2020
Collaborators:  Camilla Grane (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Lisa Öman Ekervhén (Engineering Psychology, LTU), Jan Johansson (Human work science, LTU), Joel Lööw (Human work science, LTU) mfl. Mining industries and universities in Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Poland
Contact at Luleå university of Technology: Jan Johansson,

Successful aging – A study of how bilingualism and choice of occupation contribute to preserve attention and memory across the adult life span.

There is an increasing number of older adults in western societies who are working longer and this has led to the important question of how to improve quality of life in older age. In particular, research has recently focused on factors that can help to reduce the negative effects of aging on cognitive functions (i.e. measured performance in memory and attention tasks) (e.g., Nyberg et al. 2012) and that can potentiate what has been known as successful or optimal aging (Josefsson et al., 2012). In this 6-year project, we aim to increase the understanding of cognitive development related to mental activities during the trajectory of life. The main research question to be answered is if bilingualism and work in mentally demanding occupations improve memory and attention. To be able to answer this question the project is analyzing data of large-scale databases based on existing (The Betula cohort study) and newly collected longitudinal data (Successful aging). The project has large relevance for society since the project tries to identify cognitive functions sensitive to long-term stimulating activities through studies of bilingualism and mentally demanding occupations. To this day, a large number of publications has emerged from the project in which support for the benefit of brain training has been concluded, but findings have so far also showed differentiated outcomes depending on the memory processes studied and memory tasks used.

Funder: Knut & Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse,
Collaborators: Prof. Jessica K. Ljungberg (Luleå University of Technology), Daniel E Sörman (Luleå University of Technology), Mariana Vega Mendoza (Luleå University of Technology), Patrik Hansson (Umeå University), John E Marsh, (University of Central Lancashire and Luleå University of Technology).
Contact at Luleå university of Technology:: Prof. Jessica K. Ljungberg