Game‐XP: Action Games as Experimental Paradigms for Cognitive Science

Topics in Cognitive Science 9 (2):289-307 (2017)
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Why games? How could anyone consider action games an experimental paradigm for Cognitive Science? In 1973, as one of three strategies he proposed for advancing Cognitive Science, Allen Newell exhorted us to “accept a single complex task and do all of it.” More specifically, he told us that rather than taking an “experimental psychology as usual approach,” we should “focus on a series of experimental and theoretical studies around a single complex task” so as to demonstrate that our theories of human cognition were powerful enough to explain “a genuine slab of human behavior” with the studies fitting into a detailed theoretical picture. Action games represent the type of experimental paradigm that Newell was advocating and the current state of programming expertise and laboratory equipment, along with the emergence of Big Data and naturally occurring datasets, provide the technologies and data needed to realize his vision. Action games enable us to escape from our field's regrettable focus on novice performance to develop theories that account for the full range of expertise through a twin focus on expertise sampling and longitudinal studies of simple and complex tasks.



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