Nintendo Wii used in psychology experiment

7 Nov 2008

A psychology expert is using the Nintendo Wii to investigate how people think and make decisions. He has so far found that people who use the device have a ‘truth bias’.

University of Memphis psychology expert Dr Rick Dale is to give a public lecture at National University of Ireland, Galway on 12 November on how he has adapted the popular video-game console to explore the relationship between the mind and the body.

“The Wiimote is in fact the perfect interface to perform these kinds of experiments,” Dale said.

“As the game itself is already designed to absorb a person’s body into the video-game experience, we just have to hook the Wiimote into a lab computer, and we can enjoy the rich streaming data that video games typically use, but this time, track them in experiments.”

Until recently, many psychologists concluded that thinking and acting were managed by relatively separate subsystems in the human mind.

This was reflected in the way that, when we make decisions, most of us feel as if we think and then act.

Dale’s research showed the systems that control thinking and those that control action are actually deeply intertwined. “We often begin to act before we think, even when making relatively simple decisions. Some might say that we even think through our actions.”

One of the experiments at the University of Memphis showed that people have a ‘bias toward truth’, in that we have is a natural tendency to believe things are true.

Participants in the experiment used the Wiimote to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to questions such as ‘Can a kangaroo walk backwards?’ The results showed that it took longer for participants to decide that a statement was false, rather than true.

In many cases, the cursor travelled first toward the yes, and then curved over to no.

For the researchers, this indicated two things. Firstly, the body was in motion before the cognitive processing was completed.

Secondly, the participants really wanted to believe most of the statements were true, even though they decided quickly that some of them were not.

By John Kennedy


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years