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Game Training to Reduce Bias

There has been a long history of movements in the business, psychology, and human factors communities to help people overcome the natural tendencies in decision making that often lead us astray. You know – what we often refer to as biases but that evolved to help us make fast, frugal decisions in the muddy context we call the real world.

But most of those effort fail to live up to expectations. Either they work in the lab but not in the field, or they work for a very narrow domain but move a trainee into something new and it is back to square one. Finding a robust, enduring, and effective training program has stayed beyond our best efforts.

My Take

If you believe this article in Harvard Business Review, a team of researchers led by Carey Morewedge at Boston University may have discovered a viable approach. They used a serious game to train participants in intelligence analysis. The game focused on six cognitive heuristics that you will all be familiar with: blind spot bias, confirmation bias, fundamental attribution error, anchoring, projection, and representativeness.

The game was more effective than the video. Playing the game reduced the three biases by about 32% immediately and 24% over the long term. Watching the video reduced the three biases by about 25% immediately and 19% over the long term.

The game included several game elements so it is hard to identify whether it is one of them, all of them, or some partial combination that led to the training effectiveness. The games have a direct action-feedback loop, fast and personalized feedback, immersive narrative, and increasing levels. I recommend all of these in my gamification projects, so I am not surprised to see them working here.

Your Turn

I would be interested to hear your initial reaction to this study. You can read the full academic paper here.

Image Credit: Im IPOD 5

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