Scientists using videogame as psychological tool

March 5th, 2008 - 11:31 am ICT by admin  

New York, March 5 (IANS) Nintendo Wiimote is highly popular as a video-game, but by hooking it to a lab, computer researchers in the US have been able to extract clues about how a person performed a learning task. Although it has in the past been adapted as a tool of physical therapy for geriatrics, researchers at the University of Memphis have found another use for the game - psychological experimentation.

Data from the Wiimote permitted researchers, led by Dale Rick, to demonstrate that body movements change systematically along with change in mental processing.

Findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the online open-access journal PLoS ONE.

These results provide new evidence that thought and action systems, believed to be relatively separate subsystems in the human mind, are actually deeply intertwined.

Dale said: “The Wiimote is, in fact, the perfect interface to perform these kinds of experiments.

“We just have to hook the Wiimote into a lab computer, and we can enjoy the rich streaming data that videogames typically use, but this time track them in experiments.”

Dale and his students continuously tracked the position and acceleration of participants’ choices as they learned to match unfamiliar symbols into pairs.

As people learned, their bodies reflected the confidence of that learning. Participants moved the Wiimote more quickly, more steadily, and also pressed on it more firmly as they became familiar with the symbols.

Their results suggest that when the body accompanies more complex learning experiences in school or at work, it can richly reflect that underlying process of learning.

The authors note that using the Wiimote now provides psychologists with a very affordable and immersive environment to study the relation between thought and action.

Existing technology to track three-dimensional movement typically costs many thousands of dollars, but the use of the Wiimote may provide an accessible and enjoyable alternative.

“One reason for Nintendo Wii’s wild successes is that it integrates natural bodily movements with the mental processing involved in gaming,” Dale said.

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