FNR ATTRACT Fellows: Pedro Cardoso Leite (experimental psychology)

FNR ATTRACT Fellows: Pedro Cardoso Leite (experimental psychology)

When they see video games, many people think it’s a stupid activity, just a waste of time – but in fact in researchers have observed that they have interesting properties for learning My research is about the relationship between technology and cognition – the human mind I’m Pedro Cardoso-Leite, I’m an experimental psychologist and FNR ATTRACT Fellow at the University of Luxembourg we create video games to improve learning My interest in learning came quite early on I grew up here in Luxembourg, my parents are Portuguese immigrants Luxembourg is a very culturally diverse country this has many advantages, but also challenges One of the main challenges is education If you have a classroom with people from very different backgrounds, it’s difficult to find one solution that fits all the kids Quite early on, I wanted to better understand how learning works and how you can make a system that is fair to everybody I thought a good way to do that would be to study the human mind and psychology, so that’s what I do There are many ways to approach learning It’s far more complex than people think at first glance My vision is that we will have some video games that can adapt to people, So if you have a student who wants to learn something, the game will adapt the difficulty and the challenges to that specific person, and so be able to improve learning. A group of researchers have made a very interesting discovery: action video games in particular, compared to other types of games, are able to train certain cognitive abilities that can have an impact outside of the game itself, for example on your ability to concentrate this is something that is of huge importance in the field of learning, because typically when you study something specific, you just apply it in that context One of the key challenges is to understand why these action video games have these effects In the lab when you create a setting, you start very simple, but here we actually have action video games that are very complex They a like a black box, they are commercial products In order to get a better understanding of why these games work, you need to create your own games so that you have the control to test different versions of the game This is one aspect of the work I am doing here, we are creating video games to try to understand why action games are effective in improving cognitive abilities Making video games is actually a whole art in itself, it takes a lot of effort and skill But if you don’t have enough funding to hire people that know this kind of work, you typically have to do it yourself There have been researchers who have tried to create their own games, typically those games are a bit sub-optimal, because the researcher did not have the resources to make it into something that people would enjoy playing With the ATTRACT funding, I have the resources to make something that is also fun to play and not only constructed based on science It’s important because if you want to try and grasp that complexity, you need a lot of data. Our strategy is to try to put video games on the internet and have people play those games if you want people to actually use the game, it has to be fun The idea we came up with is to have something that we call ‘the behavors’ It’s a game that takes place in space, the player is an astronaut and in that world has to perform some tasks One of the tasks is this one, it’s called multiple object tracking You have these smileys that are moving around in space and your task is to track them You have to keep concentrated on them We basically translate that well-known cognitive task into a game The idea is that we have these objects that are moving in space, I have to keep track of which elements are blue and which are red, the larger this number gets, the more difficult it is to track them all When people play this, they are also going to produce data, this data gives us a better understanding of what we are going to put back into the game we hope to have a kind of feedback loop that allows us to continuously improve our system and understanding of these mechanisms The second part is we try to create new forms of digital technology, In particular new kinds of video games, with the intention to use these games to enhance cognitive abilities One of the approaches we have started to work on is to develop games that help kids improve their math abilities The ability to discriminate for example quantities that will then help them more easily understand mathematics when they are in school In this particular game, you have to make a recipe for a magic potion When you use the right ingredients, the child in the game is transformed into an animal Although it’s hard to get this funding, once you have it, you are assured that your research topic is of high relevance for the national research landscape It’s a very interesting project and I think it can have a real impact on people’s lives I’m working with very smart and creative people I can decide who I hire, what to work on, it’s a freedom that for a researcher is almost like paradise

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