Learning Game Version 4

In my work on "context" and  how it interacts with learning about events embedded within it, I needed to have a method where participants could associate a single cue with multiple outcomes, at the same time, and express that knowledge.  Initially, I did not have good ideas how to do this with a behavioral task, so I used a task where they simply told me about the probability of things happening.  For example, they might first learn that the "gold protector" garden product causes weeds to grow.  Later, they learn that it causes weeds to grow and bug infestations.  All the subject does is answer simple questions about the probability of weeds growing and the probability of a bug infestation given the cue.  This method worked out ok, and I published one paper with it that determined an important set of conditions that are necessary for determining when and how context interacts with events embedded within it.   Nevertheless, the method, and others like it presently in use,  was much too introspective for my tastes, thus the motivation for my present method that I am developing using C# and Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio framework.
 
The method is modelled after an appetitive conditioning procedure with rats.  In that procedure a rat is put in a skinner box and taught to run over and eat food in a recessed food cup at the sound of the food being delivered.  Then, we instantiate conditions that should produce associative learning for study by pairing tones and lights and other stimuli with the delivery of food. As the rat learns to expect the food given the stimulus, it runs over and sticks its head in and out of the foodcup when the stimulus comes on.  So, the training is in two stages.  First, they get some training on how to respond to one stimulus.  Then, when that stimulus is predicted by a second, they naturally come to respond to the second in the way they would respond to the first.
 
In this game, participants will first learn to use a particular weapon to drive away a particular invader in an intial training phase. To illustrate, a spaceship, the "Millerians," will appear with a distinct form and color and the participant is instructed to use the SOP cannon to drive them away.  They will press the space bar repeatedly until the SOP cannon is charged and begins firing SOP Torpedos at the Millerians.  The torpedos will impact the ship, which will then turn and flee.  Participants will receive several trials like that until they come to respond with the SOP cannon quickly and vigorously at the appearance of the Millerians.  At that point, they will then be transported out of the training facility to the field where they must defend memebers of "The Establishment" from invaders.  Here, colored sensors will be used to predict the appearance of invaders.  A Red sensor might predict that a Millerian will appear in 5 seconds.  As participants learn this, they should begin charging the SOP cannon when the sensor appears so that it will be ready the moment they appear. 
 
So, the method is analogous to appetitive conditioning in rats.  Rats first learn how to respond to and consume food.   Participants first learn to reliably repsond in a particular way to the appearance of a particular type spaceship.   Later, rats learn that particular stimuli predict food, and they respond to these stimuli as if food were either present or immediately forthcoming.   Participants will learn that particular stimuli predict particular ships and will hopefully respond appropriately.  
 
This method is being designed so that, hopefully, I can pair a single cue with up to two different outcomes and measure those associations somewhat independently.   For example, they might need to press the spacebar to activate the SOP Cannon for the Millerians, but use the "E" key to use the "Extinction Blaster" to drive away the "Gallistellarians"  A red sensor can indicate that both the millerians and the gallistellarians are about to invade, and the participant can respond by pressing the spacebar with one hand and the "E" key with the other.  With proper counterbalancing, these two simple responses should not interfere with each other.
 
The participant has only to set and observe events, and press the appropriate keys or manipulanda at the appropriate times, so the game can be boring.  To combat this, I am using C# and the XNA Game Studio to develop the game so that it will have impressive (relatively speaking) and pleasing graphics as well as very good (at least "decent") sound and sound effects.  Sound cues can also be used as CSs in this game.  All intructions will be presented on screen and verbally through headphones.  Ideally, I will have this configured where an experimenter can meet with a participant, instruct them to sit at the computer, put on the headphones and press the "S" key and have no further interactions.  The computer will provide instructions, conducte the experiment, and debreif the participant.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Advertisements
This entry was posted in The Learning Game. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s