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Session Information

TitleIt's All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses a Bias: Designing, Implementing, and Assessing Game-based Interventions to Combat Stereotypes and Biases
Presenter(s)Geoff Kaufman and Mary Flanagan
TimeFriday, October 19, 1:00p-2:00p
DescriptionOur team is producing and evaluating a set of games aimed at combating stereotypes against girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The design of these games draws on psychological theories and research, in particular, foundational work on stereotype threat (the fear of confirming a stereotype about one's group) and implicit bias (unconscious negative evaluations of a particular group or domain). Each game we create incorporates strategies that prior work has shown to yield such beneficial outcomes as: (1) reducing explicit stereotypical beliefs and/or implicit stereotypical associations; (2) enlightening individuals about the impact of stereotypes on their targets; and (3) equipping members of stereotyped groups with psychological defenses against bias.

We will share insights about creating immersive, engaging games that successfully embody psychological principles and processes, and present the methods and results from controlled experimental studies investigating the games' impact on players. To illustrate our approach, we will focus on a pair of card games that take distinct approaches to combating stereotypes. The first, Awkward Moment, poses embarrassing or stressful academic and social scenarios, to which players must select appropriate reactions. During each round, players submit the "Reaction Card" from their hand that they believe is the best response to the "awkward moment" revealed to the group on a "Moment Card," and a player designated as the "Decider" selects a winning card from among those submitted. Many of the game's "moments" put players in the perspective of being a witness to gender bias - or being a target themselves. An experimental study revealed that, on post-game measures, middle school students assigned to play the original version of Awkward Moment showed a stronger explicit association between "female" and "scientist" and exhibited a higher level of assertiveness in response to hypothetical occurrences of bias, compared to participants assigned to play a "neutral" version of the game (in which the "moments" were unrelated to gender bias) and participants assigned to a control group (who completed the measures of bias before playing the game).

In the second game, Buffalo, players simultaneously flip cards from two decks, one containing cards listing adjectives (e.g., words describing race, nationality, physicality, and ideology), and the other containing cards listing nouns (e.g., professions, roles, and social groups). Players race to collect the cards by identifying a real-life or fictional person whose identity satisfies the revealed noun/adjective combination. This game aims to activate a plethora of cross-cutting identities, some of which may fit with prior expectations (e.g., a "male scientist"), whereas others defy such expectations (e.g., a "female scientist"), in order to stimulate thought about the ways that stereotypes impact memory and judgment. An experimental study with a sample of college undergraduates and adults revealed that the game significantly increased participants' perceptions of the diversity of their self-identified social ingroups and inspired higher scores on a measure of universal non-prejudice.

As these findings suggest, games can provide a fun, entertaining experience for players and, at the same time, stimulate significant changes to their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

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