Monday, April 25, 2016

Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design.

Folkins, J. W., Brackenbury, T., Krause, M., & Haviland, A. (2016). Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology / American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 25(1), 111–121.

            Gamers around the world, on average, spend eight hours per week playing video games. Although games are played at one’s own leisure, sometimes it is difficult to put the game down even when mentally fatigued. Such attraction to video games can be explained by six key principles: essential experience, discovery, risk-taking, generalization, reward system, and identity. Folkins et al. discuss these key principles and explain how they can be incorporated into future therapies among speech language pathologists.
            The essential experience principle is the idea of positive experience felt from playing the game itself. Minecraft is an example of a game where gamers can freely roam and create massive structures using their own imagination. This game has no specific goal or purpose, but the positive experience of exploring and creating structures compels gamers to continue playing. Clinicians can apply this principle in their therapy sessions by addressing their client’s negative experiences and finding ways to improve future experiences.
            The discovery principle promotes learning, discovering and unlocking skills or secrets to increase gamers’ level of engagement. In a clinical perspective, environmental manipulation can be a form of discovery learning. Children who have expressive impairments may request a toy that is locked in a jar, but will not necessarily receive it until the clinician elicits the production at the targeted level. If unsuccessful, the child can request the toy multiple times and discover what form/level of communication seems to work.
            The risk-taking principle and the reward system principle have the common theme of being challenging-yet-rewarding. Challenging games that create the feeling of “pleasantly frustrated”, often promote gamers to continue playing and re-trying unsuccessful levels. In addition, if the reward has an intrinsic value (e.g. the ability to travel to a different world), this further enhances their motivation and engagement. Applying these principles to a clinical setting could mean creating an environment where risk-taking is encouraged. Extrinsic rewards such as verbal reinforcement and small prizes are a good use of the reward principle. However, rewards that have intrinsic properties (e.g. successful communication, improved self-image) are highly encouraged as this is a primary motivator to clients.
            These key principles in game design are highly effective in motivating gamers to continue playing. Clinicians are encouraged to reflect on these principles when designing their therapy sessions to increase their clients’ motivation and engagement.

Blogger: Joel Kang is an undergraduate student in neuroscience and completed this honours thesis under Lisa Archibald’s supervision

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Implicit Learning as an Ability

Kaufman, S. B. DeYoung, C. G., Gray, J. R., Jimenes, L., Brown, J. & Mackintosh, N. (2010). Implicit learning as an ability. Cognition, 116(30), 321-340.

Implicit learning involves automatically detecting regularities in our environment. Implicit learning happens largely unintentionally and without awareness. To date, the bulk of research done on implicit learning has not considered individual differences to be of importance. Rather, any individual differences on relevant measures have been considered “noise” caused by error or unexplained variance. This view contrasts with thinking in the area of explicit learning, the conscious effort to learn material. In explicit learning tasks, individual differences are considered a meaningful source of variance. Kaufman et al. aimed to provide evidence indicating that implicit learning is actually an ability that does indeed have meaningful individual differences. 

Based on the past literature, the authors hypothesized that traditional views of intelligence, working memory, and executive attention are all associated with explicit learning, whereas processing speed, intuition, openness, and impulsivity are positively associated with implicit learning.  The authors of the present study assessed their hypotheses by looking at correlations between individual differences in implicit learning, and tests of each of these cognitive and personality variables. Participants underwent three testing sessions. They began by completing a serial reaction time task containing probabilistic patterns, to measure implicit learning, and then were subjected to a battery of tests to measure all of the afore mentioned variables. Significant associations were found between the implicit learning measure and measures related to verbal analogical reasoning, processing speed, and components of self-reported personality. No correlations, on the other hand, were found between the implicit learning measure and measures of general intelligence, working memory, or executive attention. Interestingly, a positive correlation was found between implicit learning and some measures of academic performance.

These findings support the idea that individual differences in implicit learning could constrain learning and performance more broadly. 

Blogger: Alisha Johnson, Alisha is an honours thesis student working with Dr. Lisa Archibald

Monday, February 29, 2016

Semantic and phonological contributions to short-term repetition and long-term cued sentence recall.

Meltzer, J.A., Rose, N.S., Deschamps, T., Leigh, R.C., Panamsky, L., Silberberg, A., Madani, N., & Links, K.S. (2016). Semantic and phonological contributions to short-term repetition and long-term cued sentence recall. Memory & Cognition, 44, 307-329.

Short-term memory(STM) involves the recall of information briefly held in mind. It is generally agreed that there is domain-specificity within STM such that recall of phonological information is impaired when a person is engaged in another phonological but not visuospatial task, and vice versa. It is equally well-accepted that phonological retention and recall is supported by activated semantic knowledge held in long-term memory (LTM). For example, better recall is observed for lists of known vs. unknown words, or sentences vs. strings of words reflecting the better retention of phonological strings with known semantic associations.

Another long-standing tenet of factors influencing encoding in LTM is the ‘level of processing’ of information (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). According to this view, better encoding (and recall) is achieved with deep vs. shallow processing of material presented. An example of shallow processing is making a superficial judgment about information such as the font a word is written or the phonological rhyme whereas deep processing involves semantic processing.

The authors of the present study argued that shifting participants towards greater reliance on semantic processing would enhance long-term recall of presented information even if the manipulation disrupted short-term recall. Participants completed a sentence repetition task as follows: A sentence was presented and during an initial short delay, the participant completed a phonological task or a non-phonological, finger tapping task. The phonological task was expected to disrupt phonological encoding and shift reliance towards semantic processing, whereas no such shift was expected for the finger tapping task. After 100 sentences were completed, participants completed a cued LTM task in which they were given pairs of two words that cued one of the sentences previously presented and asked to recall as much of the sentence as they could.

Not surprisingly, sentence recall from STM was lower when a phonological compared to nonphonological task was completed during a brief delay. Of greater interest was that the opposite pattern was observed for the LTM cued recall task: Relative to what they had remembered in the STM task, participants more accurately recalled sentences during which they had completed a phonological vs. nonphonological task at encoding. Further, sentences were either abstract or concrete with the idea that the abstract sentences would benefit more from the greater semantic processing achieved in the phonological disruption task. Indeed, the benefit to LTM recall after completing a phonological vs. nonphonological task at encoding was found to be greater for abstract than concrete sentences but only when the phonological task was demanding (i.e., counting backwards by 3 vs. repeating ‘babataka’).

These findings were taken as evidence that engaging semantic mechanisms at encoding to achieve a deeper level of processing promotes long-term retention. It would follow from this that rote immediate repetition is a poor strategy for promoting long-term learning as compared to strategies that engage learners with meaning.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald