Black Friday 2019 is already upon us, which means your Facebook ads and TV commercials have started going to Jared and buying a Buick. Thanks to the internet, you don't have to fight the crowds at midnight on Black Friday anymore. Also thanks to the internet, the possibilities are endless! You probably have at least one technophile on your holiday shopping list. So, what do you get them? A new phone? An Amazon Echo? A couple of those Phillips smart light bulbs? My advice about buying tech gifts for someone else is the same advice I give to people considering investing in immersive technology for learning: unless you are willing to ask the right questions and do your research, just…don't.
One Christmas, my mom bought me a DVD player and a copy of "The Wedding Planner" starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey. This was really generous of her, and something I would have never bought myself, largely because I was a broke graduate student and didn't have a TV. So I bought a TV, a TV stand, cables to run it through my stereo, an antenna, and eventually cable so that I could watch this Jennifer Lopez movie. Spoiler alert: There is no scene in which zombie opossums from another dimension attack, car chases happen, things blow up, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson saves the world, and I will never know why my mother thought I would enjoy this movie.
The morals of this story:
1. Tech gifts are expensive. The Oculus Quest made waves because good VR was finally affordable. But, "affordable" is still at least $400. That's a lot to spend on something you're not sure someone's going to love.
2. Tech gifts don't usually stand alone. My DVD player didn't work without an additional investment on my part. A gaming console is awesome, but to use it, you usually have to have a HDMI cable for your TV, additional controllers, batteries, and, obviously, games. All these costs add up, and they often fall on the recipient of the gift.
3. Tech gifts are platform-specific. If you haven't already, at some point soon, you will develop a committed relationship with either Siri, Alexa, or the Google lady, and much like a live-in girlfriend, they will be a part of every aspect of your life. Think about buying a tech gift like you would think about buying your sibling's girlfriend a present. Unless you understand their sense of style and know exactly what size they wear, do not buy them clothes. Just ask your sibling what stores they like and buy them a gift card.
4. A good deal is probably not a good investment. Some people tell me they "can't use VR" because it "makes them sick." Now, simulator sickness is definitely a thing, and some people have visual conditions that preclude them from having a good experience. But if you ask enough questions, usually what they're experiencing is a headache from cheap VR. When it comes to cookware, you can spend $40 or $400 on a set. The stainless steel pots and pans cost more, but they can last a lifetime. The Rachael Ray set at Walmart costs less, but you'll end up picking non-stick coating out of your omelets in a year.
I'm not saying avoid tech gifts entirely. Much like investing in training technology, if you want to do it right, you're going to have to ask your end users some questions and do some homework. Ask them what they want, what they use, what would make their lives better. Sure, it might spoil the surprise, but at least you know you're getting them something they'll love and use. Bound and determined to surprise them? OK. But make sure you include the gift receipt.
Uber is teaming up with Cargo, an online retailer, to create an app for selling products to Uber riders. It's being described as SkyMall, but for Uber. I would have to disagree. And if this metaphor is guiding the beliefs of how this will impact their users' experience, then they may not have the full picture.
For those of you who don't know, SkyMall is a shopping catalogue that is (was?) available in airplane seat pockets. It contained an assortment of products from multiple retailers all housed in a single catalogue. They offered everything from full size replicas of King Tuts sarcophagus to cat heating pads. It was a great idea at the time when the internet wasn't what it is today. If you wanted to buy something, then you needed to mail a check or call a customer service number.
This year was the first time I both attended and presented at the American Psychological Association (APA) Convention. It was held August 8-11th, in Chicago, IL. With over 12,000 educators, practitioners, researchers, and students, the convention provided an environment for expanding professional networks, gaining new skills through workshops, and learning about the current state of research and applications across a diverse set of topics related to psychology. They offered great resources for first time attendees, such as the Newbie Hive Lounge (clever name). Their Solution Center was full of vendors exhibiting the latest products, tools, and technology offered to the psych community. The Exchange was designed to facilitate discussion among small groups focused on specific topics. And because APA practices what they preach, they offered an inclusive Massage Relaxation and Wellness Center. After walking from session to session and all around the showroom floor each day, this was well deserved.
Why you need a wide cast of experts to create a successful serious game (Serious Play Conference recap)
I would like to attribute most of my geographical knowledge to the game “Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego?” For those of you that have never heard of this educational gem, it’s a PC-based game that has you try to track a thief across the globe, where you learn about geography, history, and world cultures along the way. Not only was I hooked to this game as a child, but it helped me learn topics that I wasn’t intrinsically interested in. I’d like to thank Carmen Sandiego for helping me survive my torturous middle school geography classes.
Games like Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego? and gamification instructional strategies like leader boards or points systems have been used in K-12 educational curriculums for a while now. Gamification is making its way in other domains and is now revolutionizing learning in the private sector, healthcare and the military.
Last week I participated in the Serious Play Conference, and we discussed the impressive spread of gamification and serious games in education and training. The conference brought together experts (game designers, artists, engineers, educators, and researchers) to present and talk about the creation and use of games and simulations throughout various domains.
Throughout the sessions, I came across
These demonstrations provoked discussions about the purpose of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and gamification in training and education. Specifically, one presenter brought up that companies often use these terms as buzzwords while not addressing the core reasons to use these platforms and methods.
Our team at QIC believes that implementing any new technology must depend on its effectiveness as a training tool and the cost of implementation. QIC is currently resolving this concern by developing a tool that guides comparative evaluations of training efficiency across training platforms (e.g., AR, VR, mobile).
I sat in several discussions that provided methods to game design. One session consisted of a workshop to develop games using Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a framework that focuses on inclusivity in learning and offers guidelines to ensure that all individuals have equal learning opportunities. These guidelines focus on
In other sessions we discussed how psychological concepts can be integrated into a game-based education and training to make it more memorable and engaging. For example, one presenter talked about the role of operant conditioning - learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior- in fostering engagement and motivation.
Conferences like Serious Play are so important because they allow us to see what goes into developing a serious game through the eyes of experts in different fields. Industries often stop at integrating rewards and score boards into education and training, but that seriously limits their growth. The complexity of designing and developing serious games in education and training requires the teamwork of a wide cast of specialists.
Do you have a favorite serious game? If so, what made you enjoy it? We would love to know!
Who doesn't love a snide new way of insulting people? Enter the Dunning-Kruger effect. It's experiencing quite a lot of attention in the media these days as a means of saying "you're dumb AND you're too dumb to recognize how dumb you are." And hey, I totally get it. Insults are fun, and when you can insult people with science, it's even better. But there are some systematic ways that this effect is being slightly misinterpreted across social media these days. I'm going to clear them up for you because if you go on acting like you're an expert about this phenomenon when you actually aren't, well, guess what you're exhibiting?
There are two parts to this that I'm going to talk about:
First, let's tackle what the Dunning-Kruger effect is.
Dunning and Kruger (1999) found across a variety of tasks, when asked to evaluate their own performance, low performers (those in the bottom quartile) tended to think they performed a bit above average (around the 60th percentile) - see Figure 1. Those in the second and third quartile also overestimated their abilities, but the better people performed, the less 'off' their judgments were. Those in the top percentile actually thought they performed a teensy bit worse than they actually did. The pattern of the Dunning-Kruger effect has been replicated many times over and across many types of tasks.
The part of this that grabs attention is that low performers rate themselves as shockingly better than they really are. Note, however, that while the lowest performers rated themselves as above average, they did not rate themselves as "the best" - they rated themselves as "a bit above average." The people who rated themselves as the best were, in fact, the best: the top performing quartile also had the highest perceived ability. This runs contrary to the popular understanding of the effect, in which the most incompetent people think they are the best. They don't think they're the best, they just don't think they're the worst.
To sum up Part 1, the Dunning-Kruger effect:
Now for Part 2: the cause.
Part of this effect is likely a systematic bias that people have about believing that they are just generally crushing it. This is called the above-average-effect, better-than-average effect, or illusory superiority. People just rate themselves as above average at most things. This has been found a lot.
However, Dunning and Kruger argue that an additional factor is at play in this specific effect, and this explanation captures a lot of attention. Poor performers rate themselves as better than they are because of failed metacognition, which is to say, they lack insight into their abilities. Poor performers (or "the incompetent") lack the ability to know that they're not so hot. These poor performers suffer what's called a double burden: not only do their lack of skills lead them to produce the wrong answer, but it also prevents them from recognizing their error, thus inflating their impressions of themselves. According to Dunning and Kruger, the same knowledge is needed to do the task and recognize how you're doing. If you don't have that knowledge, you're bad at both. Poor performers think they did better than they did because they lack the ability to accurately assess themselves. As you become more competent, you gain both the skills needed to master the task and more accurately evaluate yourself, creating greater metacognitive calibration. The people at the top may have a tendency to think everyone knows as much as they do (the false consensus effect), thus making them think that other people did better. This slightly lowers their own self-estimation.
This idea of a lack of metacognition on the part of the incompetent has been pretty front-and-center lately. However, this interpretation has been subject to a bit of debate. As it turns out - as is so often the case - the original authors are not the only ones with thoughts about the cause of their reported pattern of results.
One alternate explanation is regression to the mean, and it's a big one. All people are going to make some errors about their performance. These errors will tend to pull toward the average. Therefore, you will see low performers rating themselves as higher than they are and high performers rating themselves as lower than they are. When this effect is statistically controlled for, the Dunning-Kruger effect is reduced, but it doesn't go away completely. So it's probably part of the effect, but not the whole effect.
One argument is that the 'above-average effect' + 'regression toward the mean' are sufficient to explain the Dunning-Kruger effect: no metacognitive explanation is necessary. Or at least, low-performers need not have poorer insight than high performers. Think of it this way: everyone may think that they're better than average, but some people actually are. Are those people better calibrated - do they have more insight - or do they have the same "I'm awesome" bias as everyone else, but they happen to be right? McIntosh et al. (2019) suggest that all three factors can contribute: a little bit of general above-average effect, a little bit of statistical quirks, and a little bit of low metacognition (with the last being a very small, and not even necessary, contributor).
While the debate about the cause of the Dunning-Kruger effect rages on, go ahead and use quirky psychological phenomena to insult people. I won't judge.
These posts are written or shared by QIC team members. We find this stuff interesting, exciting, and totally awesome! We hope you do too!