Monster Mischief: Designing a Video Game to Assess Selective Sustained Attention

Monster Mischief: Designing a Video Game to Assess Selective Sustained Attention

Karrie E. Godwin (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA), Derek Lomas (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA), Ken R. Koedinger (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA) and Anna V. Fisher (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJGCMS.2015100102
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Selective sustained attention, or the ability to allocate perceptual and mental resources to a single object or event, is an important cognitive ability widely assumed to be required for learning. Assessing young children's selective sustained attention is challenging due to the limited number of sensitive and developmentally appropriate performance-based measures. Furthermore, administration of existing assessments is difficult, as children's engagement with such tasks wanes quickly. One potential solution is to provide assessments within an engaging environment, such as a video game. This paper reports the design and psychometric validation of a video game (Monster Mischief) designed to assess selective sustained attention in preschool children. In a randomized controlled trial, the authors demonstrate that Monster Mischief is significantly correlated with an existing measure of selective sustained attention (rs = 0.52), and more motivating for young children as almost 3 times more children preferred Monster Mischief to the existing measure.
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Attention is multidimensional and encompasses a diverse set of psychological constructs, including (but not limited to) orienting, selection, shifting, maintenance, and executive attention (see Colombo & Cheatham, 2006; Gitelman, 2003; Fisher & Kloos, in press; Posner & Petersen, 1990). The present work focuses on selective sustained attention which is defined as: “a state of engagement that involves narrowed selectivity and increased commitment of energy and resources on the targeted activity … and that primarily enhances information processing in that system” (Setliff & Courage, 2011, p. 613). Selective sustained attention is important because the ability to selectively allocate attentional resources is commonly hypothesized to aid learning (e.g., Carroll 1963; Bloom, 1976; Oakes, Kannass, & Shaddy, 2002). As stated by Oakes and colleagues (2002), “if attention were constantly reoriented to every new event, it would be difficult ... to learn about any single object or event” (p.1644). In accordance with this assertion, prior research has implicated selective sustained attention in task performance (e.g., Choudhury & Gorman, 2000; DeMarie-Dreblow & Miller, 1988), academic achievement (e.g., Duncan et al. 2007; for review see Goodman, 1990), and learning outcomes (e.g., Fisher, Thiessen, Godwin, Dickerson, & Kloos, 2013; Fisher, Godwin, & Seltman, 2014; Yu & Smith, 2012).

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