Christopher Casey (UC Riverside)
The Manipulation of a Gamified Secondary Navigation Task on Working Memory Training: Interference and Improvement

Cognitive training using variations of the n-back task has demonstrated improvement in untrained tasks measuring working memory and other cognitive abilities, such as fluid intelligence and executive functioning. However, overall results are not as consistent as desired. A possible reason for the lack of transfer in some studies might be the participantsí low motivation to perform the task, especially with multiple training days and a relatively plain, repetitive task. Gamification, the application of game-design elements and principles, has recently been shown to increase motivation in cognitive tasks (Mohammed et al., 2017). However, gamification without proper theoretical design might be disruptive of participantsí performance (Katz et al., 2014). Therefore, while gamification holds the promise of improving participantsí motivation and consequently their performance, a careful design is required to obtain the desired effects. Here, in two experiments, we tested different manipulations of gamification to increase participant performance on training by adding a secondary navigation task to the n-back task. Experiment 1 demonstrated that a minor manipulation of obstacle placement in the navigation task could negate improvement in n-back training performance over five days of training. In experiment 2, participants assigned to the Non-Destructive group (added obstacles but well designed) outperformed the Destructive (added obstacles designed to interfere) and Basic (no obstacles) group in training. The Non-Destructive group was the only one to significantly improve on untrained tasks measuring working memory and fluid intelligence. The Destructive group was the only one to significantly improve on untrained tasks of executive functioning. The results suggest that this element of gamification, if designed properly, may lead to improved performance on the trained task as well as in transfer tasks. Further evidence is given to a theoretical account of how to promote learning (Deveau et al. 2015).