Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Mind's Lie AKA "Biases With Friends" (Free Beta App)

BLUF:  The Mind's Lie is a free Android gaming app on the Google Play Store available now.  It is similar to games such as Words With Friends in that you are playing against real people and not against the machine.   

The game is designed to implicitly teach you and the other players (up to six players per game) to recognize confirmation bias, anchoring bias, stereotyping/representativeness bias, projection/mirror imaging bias, bias blind spot, or fundamental attribution error in more or less realistic situations. It is based off a successful tabletop game I designed.

Background:  A few years ago, I was inspired by IARPA's SIRIUS program (which seeks to develop a video game which will teach analysts to recognize and mitigate the effect of the six specific cognitive biases listed above) to try to come up with my own game that would do at least some of the same things.

I don't know how to design video games, though, so I did what I could do - design a tabletop game.  Called The Mind's Lie, it uses an argumentation mechanic to implicitly teach players how to recognize variants of the same six biases that IARPA is testing in the SIRIUS Project.  

Eventually, through some good fortune, I did get to be involved in SIRIUS as a part of a team that Boeing put together.  Mel Richey, who worked with me on that Boeing team, eventually tested The Mind's Lie using people from all over the US and showed that it seems to work - the more you play it, the better you get at identifying the presence of the six biases in more-or-less realistic scenarios.  

Since then, we have been using The Mind's Lie in a series of workshops and in class.  I have been encouraged by the fact that it seems to work best with people who understand that bias is a persistent risk in their day-to-day work - people like lawyers, soldiers and, yes, intelligence analysts.

At about the same time, I was asked to submit an idea for a senior project to the software engineers at Penn State (the Behrend Campus).  I have done this in the past and we had explored the possibilities of a balloon based surveillance system and a Bayesian calculator for analysts (among other ideas) together. 

What I wanted this time, though, was to turn The Mind's Lie into a Words With Friends-type game.  I wanted people to be able to re-create the experience of playing The Mind's Lie around a table while on the go.  The engineers, Steve Chalker, Joe Grise and Kit Torelli, along with their professor, Dr. Matt White, decided to turn my game into an android app.

Nearly a year later, the app is here.  It is not perfect - it's a beta version (at best), but it is out there and free to download and play.  Hope you like it!


Anonymous said...

Are there plans for an Apple version? :)

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

If there is enough interest in such a version, yes, I would very much like to do an apple version.