What Cognitive Psychology Can Tell Us About Educational Computer Games

What Cognitive Psychology Can Tell Us About Educational Computer Games

Michael K. Gardner (The University of Utah, USA) and David L. Strayer (University of Utah, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0513-6.ch001


Developers of educational computer games often have incomplete knowledge of the cognitive abilities of learners, yet this knowledge can be useful in informing game design. This chapter reviews two important cognitive abilities that underlie learning: working memory and attentional capacity/executive function. From a description of the developmental course of each ability, we derive a set of recommendations for game developers to follow when designing games for learners of different ages. The chapter next reviews the psychology of transfer of training, including two major theories on the issue. The doctrine of identical elements appears to give the better description of how transfer occurs from training environment (the educational computer game) to target environment (real world performance of the learned skill). It is recommended that games embody, as closely as possible, the end behavior they hope to produce, as this will produce maximal transfer. Finally, we review some controversial research demonstrating distant transfer in computer video gaming.
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Main Focus Of The Chapter

The Development of Cognitive Abilities

A number of cognitive abilities are necessary for children to benefit from educational computer games. Games that might be suitable for a 12th grader would not be suitable for a 1st grader. The abilities we will focus on are memory and attention or executive control.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Procedural Memory: Memory for information that cannot be called into consciousness. Memory for skills, priming, and classical conditioning are all procedural in nature (e.g., how to ride a bicycle).

Transfer of Training: The degree to which training on one task (the training task) produces improvement on a second task (the target task), which is measured after training has been completed.

Attention/Executive Function: The ability to maintain task goal information in mind in the face of distraction, conflict, or competing goals.

Declarative Memory: Memory for information that can be called into consciousness. Memory for factual information (e.g., George Washington was the first president of the United States of America).

Working Memory: A short-term memory system comprised of a central executive (associated with attention) and several slave sub-systems (associated with storage of items of a particular types such verbal-phonological, visuo-spatial, episodic). The key feature of working memory is that it deals with both the short-term storage of information and the processing of that information within the same cognitive system.

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