Hiding to hedge against information overload

Diverging distraction effects due to task-irrelevant information from misleading associations


  • Yannick Runge University of Trier
  • Christian Frings University of Trier
  • Tobias Tempel Ludwigsburg University of Education




Mental Fixation, Problem Solving, Interference


Many workspaces nowadays overload people with information – often with information that is irrelevant to the task at hand. Such information cannot only be distracting but additionally misleading, and can potentially impair the performance in relevant tasks. Here we set out to investigate how higher order cognition is influenced by such irrelevant or misleading information. Specifically we were interested in disentangling distraction effects due to task-irrelevant information from distraction effects due to misleading associations. To this end, we examined the solution rates for Remote Associates Test (RAT) items as a function of the presence of additional irrelevant or misleading word material, presented alongside the RAT items. Solving these kinds of word riddles is considered higher cognition as it is closely related to problem solving in real world scenarios. Additionally we manipulated the expectation of participants towards the nature of additional information across two experiments. In Experiment 1 participants believed that all additional words were irrelevant. In Experiment 2 they thought some of the information might be useful for their task. Alongside other manipulations we hereby ensured an attentional focus on the additional information in Experiment 2. Results showed, participants performed poorer in solving RAT items when irrelevant or misleading words were presented along with the RAT items compared to no additional presentation. Moreover misleading information was additionally interfering, but only if attentively processed. To avoid such distraction and misdirection, future personal information systems like the Semantic Desktop [1-2] can help by detecting and hiding temporarily irrelevant or misleading information.


Amrit, C., Wijnhoven, A.B.J.M., Beckers, D.: Information waste on the world wide web and combating the clutter. In: Proc. of the European Conf. on Information Systems 2015 completed research papers (2015)

Crestani, F.: Application of spreading activation techniques in information retrieval. Artificial Intelligence Review 11(6), 453–482 (1997)

Dragan, L., Decker, S.: Knowledge management on the desktop. In: Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management. pp. 373–382. Springer (2012)

Eldesouky, B., Maus, H., Schwarz, S., Dengel, A.: Seed,a natural language interface to knowledge bases. In: Human Interface and the Management of Information. Information and Knowledge Design. pp. 280–290. Springer (2015)

Gyllstrom, K., Pedersen, E.R.: Not gone, but forgotten: Helping users re-find web pages by identifying those which are most likely to be lost. Proc. of the Workshop on Desktop Search at SIGIR (2010)

Hasan, R., Burns, R.: The life and death of unwanted bits: Towards proactive waste data management in digital ecosystems. In: Third Int’l Conf. on Innovative Computing Technology (INTECH 2013). pp. 144–148 (2013) Advanced Memory Buoyancy for Forgetful Information Systems 15

Jilek, C., Maus, H., Schwarz, S., Dengel, A.: Diary generation from personal in- formation models to support contextual remembering and reminiscence. In: 2015 IEEE Int’l Conf. on Multimedia & Expo Workshops, ICMEW 2015. pp. 1–6 (2015)

Jilek, C., Runge, Y., Niederée, C., Maus, H., Tempel, T., Dengel, A., Frings, C.: Managed forgetting to support information management and knowledge work. KI – Künstliche Intelligenz, Special Issue: Intentional Forgetting (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13218-018-00568-9, in print

Jilek, C., Schröder, M., Novik, R., Schwarz, S., Maus, H., Dengel, A.: Inflection-tolerant ontology-based named entity recognition for real-time applications. Computing Research Repository (2018), arXiv:1812.02119

Jilek, C., Schröder, M., Schwarz, S., Maus, H., Dengel, A.: Context spaces as the cornerstone of a near-transparent and self-reorganizing semantic desktop. In: The Semantic Web: ESWC 2018 Satellite Events. pp. 89–94. Springer (2018)

Jilek, C., Schwarz, S., Maus, H., Dengel, A.: Managed forgetting, data condensation & preservation in application. In: 2016 ACM Int’l Joint Conf. on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing: Adjunct. pp. 1046–1053. UbiComp ’16, ACM (2016)

Logie, R.H., Wolters, M., Niven, E.: Preserving and forgetting in the human brain. In: Personal Multimedia Preservation: Remembering or Forgetting Images and Video, pp. 9–45. Springer (2018)

Maus, H., Jilek, C., Schwarz, S.: Remembering and forgetting for personal preservation. In: Personal Multimedia Preservation: Remembering or Forgetting Images and Video, pp. 233–277. Springer (2018)

Maus, H., Schwarz, S., Dengel, A.: Weaving personal knowledge spaces into office applications. In: Integration of Practice-Oriented Knowledge Technology: Trends and Prospectives, pp. 71–82. Springer (2013)

Maus, H., Schwarz, S., Haas, J., Dengel, A.: CONTASK: Context-sensitive task assistance in the semantic desktop. In: Enterprise Information Systems. pp. 177– 192. Springer (2011)

Niederée, C., Kanhabua, N., Gallo, F., Logie, R.H.: Forgetful digital memory: Towards brain-inspired long-term data and information management. SIGMOD Record 44(2), 41–46 (2015)

Niederée, C., Kanhabua, N., Tran, T., Naini, K.D.: Preservation value and man- aged forgetting. In: Personal Multimedia Preservation: Remembering or Forgetting Images and Video, pp. 101–129. Springer (2018)

Sauermann, L., Bernardi, A., Dengel, A.: Overview and outlook on the semantic desktop. In: Proc. of the 1st Workshop on The Semantic Desktop at ISWC (2005)

Sauermann, L., van Elst, L., Dengel, A.: PIMO – a framework for representing personal information models. In: Proc. of I-Media ’07 and I-Semantics ’07. pp. 270–277. Know-Center, Austria (2007)

Schwarz, S.: Context-Awareness and Context-Sensitive Interfaces for Knowledge Work Support. Ph.D. thesis, TU Kaiserslautern (2010)

Tran, T.A., Schwarz, S., Niederée, C., Maus, H., Kanhabua, N.: The forgotten needle in my collections: Task-aware ranking of documents in semantic information space. In: Proc. of the 2016 ACM Conf. on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR’16). pp. 13–22. ACM (2016)

Turczyk, L., Groepl, M., Liebau, N., Steinmetz, R.: A method for file valuation in information lifecycle management. AMCIS 2007 Proceedings p. 38 (2007)

Wijnhoven, F., Amrit, C., Dietz, P.: Value-based file retention: File attributes as file value and information waste indicators. Journal of Data and Information Quality 4(4), 15:1–15:17 (2014)



How to Cite

Runge, Y., Frings, C. and Tempel, T. 2019. Hiding to hedge against information overload: Diverging distraction effects due to task-irrelevant information from misleading associations. AIS Transactions on Enterprise Systems. 4, 1 (May 2019). DOI:https://doi.org/10.30844/aistes.v4i1.12.