Monday 21 March 2016

Research Bulletin: Effects of Video Games and Television Series

Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues’ (2001) Mind in the Eyes Test has become a preferred way of measuring empathy and theory of mind in adults, and it has been extremely useful in research on effects of reading that we have discussed in OnFiction, see most recently our report of the study by Jessica Black and Jennifer Barnes (2015a) who found in an experiment that reading fiction improved social understanding, as measured by this test, but did not improve non-social understanding (click here). In the Mind in the Eyes Test a person looks at 36 photos of people’s eyes, as if seen through a letter box, and for each photo is asked to choose one of four terms to say what the person is thinking or feeling. This image is one of them, and for it the four terms from which to choose are “joking,” “flustered,” “desire,” “convinced.” The correct answer is “Desire.”

In exploring such effects, until now all the studies that I know had people read texts such as short stories or essays. I have been asked: What about films? What about video games? Usually I say that in principle they should be the same. Now Daniel Bormann and Tobias Greitemeyer (2015) have done a study that answers this question.

Bormann and Greitemeyer had people play a single-player, exploration video game in which a student comes home to her house after a year abroad to find her family missing. The researchers write that the game is played: “By analyzing different clues, such as voice records on answering machines, documents, books, and everyday objects that are distributed in the house, the player gradually reveals bits of the plot. Key elements of the story are narrated by the protagonist’s sister, in form of spoken diary entries. Gone Home was critically acclaimed, above all for excellence in narrative” (p. 648). There were three groups, each of 37 people. In one group the participants were introduced to the game by being given the game’s description from the developer’s website, and in this way, the researchers say, the participants would have in mind “in-game storytelling rather than superficial game characteristics.” Those in the second group also played Gone home, but they were introduced to it by asking them to “register, memorize, and evaluate technical and game play properties of the game as objectively and accurately as possible.” The third group was called neutral, and participants in this group played a different game, an adventure called Against the wall. People in the first group, the narrative condition, achieved better scores on the Mind in the Eyes Test than those in the other two groups.

A comparable effect has now also been found, using the Mind in the Eyes Test by Black and Barnes (2015b) with people who watched an award-winning television series.

So, the effect of fiction on improving empathy and theory of mind is not just due to the inferences of reading. It occurs with other media and, if I may say so, that is perhaps as it should be.

Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test Revised version: A study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 241-251.

Black, J. E., & Barnes, J. L. (2015a). The effects of reading material on social and non-social cognition. Poetics, 52, 32-43.

Black, J. E., & Barnes, J. L. (2015b). Fiction and social cognition: The effect of viewing award-winning television dramas on theory of mind. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9, 423-429.

Bormann, D., & Greitemeyer, T. (2015). Immersed in virtual worlds and minds: Effects of in-game storytelling in immersion, need satisfaction, and affective theory of mind. Social Psychological Personality Science, 6, 646-652.

Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...