Episode 09: Don’t Count Your Cognitions Until They Hatch

Kids can learn a lot by playing games. In this episode I talk with Dr. Jennifer Blessing about the skills that children learn by playing games, such as turn taking, goal setting, and number sense.

Game References

Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Count Your Chickens, Don’t Break the Ice, Happy Salmon, Hi Ho! Cherry-O, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Memory, Operation, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, Sorry SlidersTicket to Ride

Research References

Ramani, G. B., & Siegler, R. S. (2008). Promoting broad and stable improvements in low‐income children’s numerical knowledge through playing number board games. Child development79(2), 375-394.

Episode 08: Go Search, Young Game Player!

Games can be thought of as solving one big problem: How do I win? Cognitive psychologists think about problem solving in terms of a search process, how to get from your current state to a goal state. I discuss what this means for how we play games.

Game References

Assassin’s Creed, Breath of the Wild, Chess, Dungeons and Dragons, Europa Universalis IV, Go, Just Cause, Legend of the Five Rings, Magic: The Gathering, Othello, Pac Man, Ratchet and Clank, Space Invaders, Tic-tac-toe, Ticket to Ride, Twilight Imperium

Research References

Newell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human Problem Solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Smith, Q. (September, 2017). Review: Legend of the five rings, https://www.shutupandsitdown.com/review-legend-of-the-five-rings/

Episode 07 : That Blows Chunks: Increasing Working Memory

One constraint that everyone has is working memory capacity. Or in other words, how many things you can remember at any one point in time. While there are individual differences in this, another aspect turns out to be more important: chunking.

Game References

Chess, Guitar Hero, Konami Code, Scrabble

Research References

Chase, W. G., & Ericsson, K. A. (1982). Skill and working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 16, pp. 1-58). New York: Academic Press.

Chase, W. G., & Simon, H. A. (1973). Perception in chess. Cognitive Psychology4, 55-81.

Miller, George A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81-97.

Episode 06: Cognitive Gamer Cognalysis: Pandemic

I consider the popular board game Pandemic from a number of different angles. What makes it an interesting game, cognitively speaking? I touch on decision making, attention, cooperation, and also the Legacy and iPad versions.

Game References

Burgle Bros, Mechs vs. Minions, Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy

Research References

Daviau, R. & Leacock, M. (2017), The Making of ‘Pandemic Legacy,’ GDC 2017.

Schank, R. C. (1995). Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Sherif, M. (1961). Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Toronto: York University.

Treisman, A. M., & Gelade, G. (1980). A feature-integration theory of attention. Cognitive Psychology12, 97-136.

Episode 05: (I Can’t Get No) Satisficing

Humans do not always make the most optimal decisions. We are limited by our cognitive resources. We usually make decisions, even in playing games, that are just “good enough.” The process of making a “good enough” decision is known as satisficing.

Game References

Backgammon, Indulgence

Research References

Blessing, S. B., & Ross, B. H. (1996). Content effects in problem categorization and problem solving. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition22, 792-810.

Griggs, R. A., & Cox, J. R. (1982). The elusive thematic‐materials effect in Wason’s selection task. British Journal of Psychology73, 407-420.

Simon, H. A. (1947). Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-making Processes in Administrative Organization. New York: Macmillan.

Wason, P. C. (1968). Reasoning about a rule. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology20, 273-281.

Episode 04: Shall We Play a Game? Rise of the Machines

For about as long as there have been computers, there have been computer programs that play games. This episode considers some of the history of game playing computers, and how that has shed light on the nature of human intelligence.

Game References

Chess, Go, Jeopardy!, Pong, Tic-tac-toe, Uncharted, Video Olympics

Research References

Isaacson, W. (2014). The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. Simon and Schuster: New York: NY.

Licklider, J. C. (1960). Man-computer symbiosis. IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, 1, 4-11.

Metz, C. (2016). What the AI behind AlphaGo can teach us about being human, Wired.

Montfort, N., & Bogost, I. (2009). Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Episode 03: Attention, Please! The Role of Attention in Playing Games

You need to have focused attention while playing games. If you don’t, you might miss a critical move in a board game, or totally miss that other player about to blast you in Call of Duty. This episode considers how attention works as we play games.

Game References

Captain SonarHorizon Zero DawnPandemic Legacy, Stroop

Research References

James, W. (2013). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. Perception28(9), 1059-1074.

Simons, D. J., & Levin, D. T. (1998). Failure to detect changes to people during a real-world interaction. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review5(4), 644-649.

Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology18(6), 643-662.

Simons and Chabris Visual Attention Demo

Simons and Levin Visual Attention Demo

Change Blindness Demo

Episode 02: Now You See It, Now You Still Do: The Use of Visual Imagery in Memory

Visual memory has a different character than verbal memory. This episode examines the nature of our visual memory, and how it is used in such games as Tetris, Carcassonne, and any game that has a map that your character must navigate.

Game References

Assassins Creed, Asteroids, Breakout, Carcassonne, DixIt, Horizon Zero Dawn, Pandemic, Patchwork, Risk, Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, Tsuro, Watch Dogs 2

Research References

Shepard, R.N., & Metzler, J. (1971) Mental rotation of three-dimensional objects. Science, 171, 701-703.

Kosslyn, S. M., Ball, T. M., & Reiser, B. J. (1978). Visual images preserve metric spatial information: Evidence from studies of image scanning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 4, 47-60.

Pylyshyn, Z.W. (2002). Mental Imagery: In search of a theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 157–182.

Clive Wearing video

Episode 01: You Must Remember This: The Use of Activation in Game Playing

How verbal items are stored in long term affect how they are retrieved. This in turn affects how we play a fair number of games, as they require retrieval of items from long term memory. In particular, I consider such games as Codenames, Scattergories, and Taboo.

Game References

Codenames, Monikers, Scattergories, Taboo, Trivial Pursuit, Wits and Wagers

Research References

Loftus, E. F. (1973). Activation of semantic memory. American Journal of Psychology, 86, 331-337.

For those who want to know more about the mathematics and computation behind memory retrieval:

Raaijmakers, J.G.W. (2008). Mathematical models of human memory. In H. L. Roediger, III (Ed.), Cognitive Psychology of Memory. Vol. 2 of Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference, 445-466. Oxford: Elsevier.