Participant Gaming Experience Predicts Mental Model Formation, Task Performance, and Teaming Behavior in Simulated Search and Rescue

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Rhyse BendellJessica WilliamsStephen FioreFlorian Jentsch

Abstract: Video gaming experience has been found to impact behavior and performance on experimental tasks, can influence cognitive processes, and may even transfer to tasking proficiency. The purpose of the investigations reported in this manuscript were jointly to examine the relationships between video game experience and mental model formation as well as experience and gameplay behaviors in the context of a game-based urban search and rescue mission. We hypothesized that differences in video game play experience would influence the formation of mental models, and that experience would also be associated with different behavioral tendencies during tasking. To test our hypotheses, we first conducted an investigation to evaluate the relationship between video game play experience and mental model formation given the context of a simulated urban search-and-rescue task (employing psychographic measures of gaming experience in addition to card sort mental model elicitation) and second drew on data collected under DARPA’s Artificial Social Intelligence Supporting Teams program (particularly, behavioral and performance metrics related to players' execution of mission critical actions and team supportive behaviors) to examine the influence of experience on individual and team tasking behaviors. Results of Study 1 support our hypothesis that greater video game experience was associated with more convergent mental models related to the game-based experimental task. Results of Study 2 indicate that participants with greater experience showed evidence of better overall performance and more strategic behavior. These findings suggest that video gaming experience impacts both the formation of task-related mental models as well as task performance and teaming behaviors. One critical takeaway from the results of these studies is that some aspects of generalized video game experience may transfer to novel task performance. Having found evidence of transfer in this context is particularly informative because the search-and-rescue task environment was essentially novel, and although it was based in Minecraft the task itself employed only the sandbox foundation and involved almost no features that appear in standard Minecraft survival or other modes. The video game experience measure, on the other hand, tapped general as well as Minecraft specific experience with respect to duration, frequency/intensity, and self-reported skill. These findings have implications for simulation based research methods, particularly with regards to identification and control of potential confounding variables, as well as the practical application of simulated training and testing. Further, we submit that gaming experience is emerging as a critical factor that may be used to profile participants across research, training, and operational domains for the purposes of predicting individual behavior and performance as well as to inform the formation and development of teams.

Keywords: individual differences, mental models, human performance

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003569

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