Can Video Games Correct Bias?

There’s been some attention paid to video games and their potential for teaching people real life lessons. Recently, the University of Albany – who I will continue to sing the praises of until they cancel my alumni library account – has won a large grant to produce a video game that will teach players to recognize their own cognitive biases. From the press release:

“Although people are hard wired to attend to certain information and disregard other information when making decisions, we can train them through a carefully designed game to become more aware of this process,” [Jennifer] Stromer-Galley said. “Our game can provide them cognitive tools and ways of thinking to circumvent the harmful effects of biases that can lead to bad decisions.”

Although cognitive biases can sometimes be helpful in familiar situations or in dealing with predictable threats, they can lead to catastrophic failures in assessment of unfamiliar and unpredictable adversaries. “The 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Iraq weapons of mass destruction debacle are two well publicized examples in our recent history,” explained Strzalkowski. “Such critical errors in decision making are what we want our game to train people to avoid.”

That’s a very interesting idea. Can video games really change the way we think? Game designer Jane McGonigal gave a TED talk suggesting that games can solve many of the worlds problems by making people more collaborative and self-motivated:

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  • Darwin

    2 words: XBox Live.
    But seriously, I do think that video games can change how you see the world and help you learn about yourself. For one thing, I’ve learnt that I’m an obsessive completionist.
    An example I think is notable for trying to bring this to the mainstream is God of War 3. It sounds crazy since for the first 99% of it’s playing time it is a bloodbath. Your character kills every living thing he comes across while screaming incoherent battle cries.. But in the final fight against Zeus, you end up in a quick-time event where you basically hit a button over and over again to beat him to death, a common occurence in the game. But this time there is no fixed endpoint. It only ends when you stop. As the screen fills up with blood you finally stop and realize that all you’re left with is the body of an old man whose been dead for some time and a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach.
    It is an example worth mentioning.

  • mikespeir

    I’m no gamer, but I might consider trying that game. I laugh at myself sometimes when I discover a new bias. It’s crazy how blind we can be to them.

  • vasaroti

    I think video games Cause bias. If my daughter met a blue guy, she’d want to marry him.

  • Nathan

    Awesome. A new way to manipulate and brainwash our young people. Soon, my plans for world domination will be complete.

    But seriously, don’t think for a second that it’s not already going on.

    • JonJon

      Wow. Dude, we’ve been brainwashing children ever since we invented talking. What on earth makes video games different?