News & Events

UAlbany News Center: Video Game Aims to Train Adults to Overcome Critical Decision-Making Biases (Dec, 2011)

CYCLES description

The project objective is to develop and evaluate CYCLES (Cycles of Your Cognitive Learning, Expectations and Schema): a series of engaging, Serious Games that trains intelligence analysts to recognize, discriminate among, and mitigate six cognitive biases: Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), Confirmation Bias (CB), Bias Blind Spot (BBS), Anchoring Bias (AN), Projection Bias (PR), and Representativeness Bias (RB).

Our approach to game design and research is theory-driven and incorporates usability testing, experimentation, evaluation, refinement, and final testing. Game development draws on three bodies of literature: 1) decision-making and cognitive bias research/training; 2) games and learning research; and 3) theories of learning and behavior change.

A key component of our games is the application of Transformative Learning Theory (TLT) to information-seeking and analytic challenges in a puzzle game context. We elicit and measure players’ susceptibility to biases, provide feedback and training with an emphasis on encouraging behavior that mitigates bias, and test players’ use of that training while they solve a series of problems and puzzles in the game. Players thus engage in continuous learning processes to observe and orient themselves to cognitive biases in order to make better decisions and take enlightened action. We measure engagement and training outcomes throughout the learning process across a range of game variable experimental configurations and player types.

CYCLES games are empirically tested, serious PC and tablet games that provide transformative learning experiences in order to generate strong and persistent training in the recognition, discrimination, and mitigation of cognitive biases that commonly affect all types of intelligence analysis. Addressing these biases is crucial to helping analysts overcome the challenges inherent in dealing with the complex problems that have proliferated in the post-Cold War world. These challenges, which typically involve ambiguous information, multiple actors, and fluid circumstances, are particularly susceptible to bias due to the lack of conscious awareness of the workings of the mind (Heuer, 1999). Bias mitigation must therefore address the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the human mind and the way it processes information. Our approach is to teach players definitions and mitigation strategies explicitly, then give them opportunities to play scenarios that train them to recognize and use their mitigation techniques in the game as well as in more real-world scenarios.

Phase 1

CYCLES Training Center game (development dates: October 2011 to September 2013)

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CYCLES Training Center is a single-player, 30-minute puzzle game that teaches definitions and mitigation strategies for three biases: Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), Confirmation Bias (CB), and Bias Blind Spot (BBS). Experimental results show that our game provides effective bias mitigation training.

Preview CYCLES Training Center game

Phase 2

CYCLES Carnivale game (development dates: September 2013—March 2015)

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CYCLES Carnivale is a single-player, 60-minute puzzle game that teaches definitions and mitigation strategies for additional three biases: Anchoring Bias (AN), Projection Bias (PR), and Representativeness Bias (RB). In a series of experiments we demonstrated that this game is highly effective in training bias mitigation and it outperforms more traditional forms of instruction.
Overall, analyses provide strong evidence that our games provide highly effective, persistent training of bias mitigation and are engaging.

Preview CYCLES Carnivale game

Access 1st Playable Productions CYCLES games page.