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Cognitive Science
Completed Project

Using Online Games to Study Human Cognition

Spencer Lee ’22, Ling Qi ’22 and Professor Josh de Leeuw (Cognitive Science)

This project aims to build a suite of online games that replicate psychological experiments. In contrast with a traditional laboratory approach, conducting experiments via online games unlocks access to a larger and more diverse sample of participants. With a large sample, we are able to employ “radical randomization” as a strategy to assess the generalizability of findings.  Radical randomization involves not only randomizing the independent variables key to the experimental question, which usually correspond to variations in the game’s level of difficulty, but also randomizing the seemingly less significant but potentially impactful variables, such as the color of a stimulus. This strategy allows us to explore more of the experimental design landscape and avoid basing findings on coincidental “sweet spots” of experimental features.

This summer, we developed two more games, assessing working memory and motor sequence learning. With the increase in size of our game suite, we developed a “party mode” in which friends can join an online game room, compete against each other in a series of games, and receive rankings among themselves. Apart from engaging more participants, this multiplayer setting also provides more flexibility for radical randomization. In traditional game design, games get more difficult as a player acquires more experience. In party mode, players are competing against each other, freeing us to select random levels every time a group plays.