UAlbany CYCLES Project Earns Gold at Serious Play Awards

Educational game teaches players how to recognize and reduce dependence on cognitive decision-making biases

CYCLES Carnivale, a point-and-click puzzle game designed in part by UAlbany researchers,  is  available to play on android devices.

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 10, 2015) -- A team of researchers and game designers led by University at Albany computer scientist Tomek Strzalkowski have earned a gold medal at the 2015 International Serious Play Awards competition for developing a serious game that trains people to overcome dependence on cognitive biases in their decision-making.

CYCLES Carnivale, an educational game designed by 1st Playable Productions and researchers at the University at Albany, Syracuse University, Colorado State University, University of Arizona, and Temple University won a gold medal in the competition’s Government/Military category. The Serious Play Awards recognize outstanding works that deliver high quality engagement and learning opportunities for education. Selection criteria for medal recipients include functionality and playability of the game, its educational effectiveness, and the element of fun it provides.

The 50-month CYCLES project (Cycles of Your Cognitive Learning, Expectations, and Schema) project is supported by a $8.7-million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Lab, and is sponsored by the Sirius Program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which heads the nation's intelligence services.

The overarching goal of the CYCLES project was to design an educational game that teaches players how to recognize certain cognitive biases that people use when making decisions and to avoid committing those biases in the future. Cognitive biases can lead to poor decision-making, especially during situations involving incomplete information or while operating under time pressure. Previous research has found cognitive biases to be resistant to training, but the results from multiple rigorous experiments demonstrate that participants who played CYCLES Carnivale successfully increased their awareness of cognitive biases and reduced their dependence on cognitive biases during decision-making.

“CYCLES Carnivale is a remarkable achievement by a dedicated, tightly integrated, cross-disciplinary team,” said Strzalkowski, a professor of Computer Science at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and director of the University's Institute for Informatics, Logics and Security Studies. “We believe this technology will have far reaching impact well beyond government and the intelligence community, wherever unbiased critical decision making is paramount: in law enforcement, medicine, news reporting, and finance.”

CYCLES Carnivale is a Flash-based point-and-click puzzle game. The player’s character must navigate through a series of challenges in order to complete the game. Completing each challenge requires the player to avoid biased decision-making. To encourage learning transfer outside of the game, the challenges present players with numerous real-world scenarios where people often fall for these cognitive biases. The game is currently available on Google Play. The research team also is in the process of commercializing it. The research findings from this project have been published in Computers in Human Behavior and a forthcoming issue of Journal of Media Psychology.

More information about Cycles Carnivale can be found on the game’s website. Learn more about the the Serious Play Association and the International Serious Play Awards.

Partners in Research: Tomek Strzalkowski, University at Albany; Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Syracuse University; Rosa Mikeal Martey, Colorado State University; Ben Clegg, Colorado State University; Jim Folkestad, Colorado State University; Matt Rhodes, Colorado State University; Kate Kenski, University of Arizona, Adrienne Shaw, Temple University; Brian McKernan, University at Albany; Sarah Taylor, Sarah M. Taylor Consulting LLC; Tobi Saulnier, 1st Playable; Elizabeth McLaren, 1st Playable; Danielle Cerniglia, 1st Playable; Samira Shaikh, University at Albany.

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