mardi 17 octobre 2017

Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children [RCT peer-reviewed article]

Goldstein, T. R., & Lerner, M. D. (2017). Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children. Developmental Science.
Young 4 years old children (n=97) participated in the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) testing the relations between social development and role playing. The results show dramatic pretend play activities improve only emotional control (not affective empathy, neither theory of mind, neither prosocial behaviors).

The intervention lasted 8 weeks and were divided in 24 sessions of 30 minutes. Two control groups were tested alongside the pretend play group: a story time group and a block building group. These two groups help control narrative elements, character and emotion embodiment elements, collaborative activities and fine motor skills elements. The intervention was assessed one week after the last session, so there is no measure on a possible fading of the effect on mid- or long-terms.

Dramatic pretend play games (DPPG) are  « short, engaging activities, led by an adult, that involve an individual child or small group of children engaging in creating movement and sound based on a prompt about a character, situation, animal, emotion or idea. »They are based on Viola Spolin drama theater play's exercices.

« Emotional control is associated with academic competence, prosocial understanding and behavior, and behavioral control is associated with lifetime achievement. » « Children who experience more personal distress in response to others’ distress have been found to show less prosocial behavior. »
« Therefore, these results could have emerged because children in the DPPG group gained an ability to task switch, to distance themselves from emotionally charged situations, to see themselves as separated, and to control their reactions based on their distance from someone else’s distress, rather than affecting emotional control directly. »

The authors note that « The distinction between fantastical pretense and more “real-world” pretense, and how each type of pretense affects emotional control, is an important direction for future work. »

Links to go further:
My opinion: the study is very well written and the results are evidence-based. Furthermore, the popularized article explains the methodology in details which is very pedagogical.

vendredi 6 octobre 2017

Here Be Dragons: Using Dragons as Models for Phylogenetic Analysis [peer reviewed article]

Cruz, Ronald Allan L. “Here Be Dragons: Using Dragons as Models for Phylogenetic Analysis.” The American Biology Teacher 79, no. 7 (2017): 544–51. doi:10.1525/abt.2017.79.7.544.

The students are building character matrices (with Mesquite 3.04) and cladograms based on the characterics of the D&D 3.5 dragons. Then, they generate a phylogenetic tree based on their analysis (with PHYLIP 3.6). The character choices/states are based on breath weapon, number of limbs, wing shape, alar phalanges,... but not on color, alignment and religion.

Fictional dragons in teaching activities present some weakness :
  • difficulty to determine which characters are important ;
  • some characters are vague ;
but they also present strenghs :
  • fun ;
  • lack of established/accepted "best" estimate: practice problem solving and critical thinking ;
  • no pre-existing phylogenetic: no cheating.

Ronal Allan L. Cruz, the ressourceful professor who designed the activity, comments « this activity reinforces the usefulness of fictional organisms in understanding the biology of real ones. »

vendredi 29 septembre 2017

Build, Choose or Receive a Character to Roleplay ?

In Reacting to the Past roleplay learning games, each player receives an specific designed character. Then surprisingly, a lot of players sincerely try their best to defend the values and styles of their assigned role, whatever the role is (ex: a Muslim and a Jewish students playing "the other side" in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War reenactment).
It seems to be more powerful and transformative than if the role was choosen (it can be possible if the game master decides to do so). In ludic RPG, most of the time the character are build by the player, or choosen by the player among a set of pre-generated characters.

If the character is assigned [no evidence or sources to these claims]:
  • The player can endorse the role with less judgement from outside;
  • There is less responsability because no choice was made, so it's less stressful;
  • The distanciation is greater;
  • The effort of play is more challenging, it is less automatic or easy;
  • The player needs to ask more questions and to endorse the answers;
  • The player can experience cogitive dissonance with the character but, because its not him and he didn't choose it, its more easy to accept the dissonance than his own ;
  • The player experiments a new role he maybe never [dare to] think about;
  • Its more easy for the gamemaster to design and assign roles that are competing or conflicting because it is a source of meaningful game.

Let's go back in the past with a study from 1954:  Active participants, taking the role of a character with different opinions than theirs, and feeling a satisfying oral speaking performance, show more amount of opinion change than passive participants or not satisfied orators.
Janis, I. L., & King, B. T. (1954). The Influence of Role Playing on Opinion Change. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 49(2), 211–218.

mercredi 20 septembre 2017

Defence wargaming handbook [excerpt]

Defence wargaming handbook is a very good and open-access introduction to what is a wargame and how to design it for training and learning purposes. Wargames were at the origins of the first role-playing game (D&D).

About the determining the outcomes of players decisions (free, rigid, semi-rigid or minimal/consensual adjudications), role-playing is cited as a tool and a technique that can be used to support adjudication (p.44) :
« Role play. Defence wargames sometimes include an element of role play, but are rarely role-play-only. Role play can exert a strong influence towards free, or even consensual/minimal, adjudication. Constraining role-play actor interactions can reduce the influence, but that risks lessening the benefits of role play (free thinking creativity). The ultimate expression of role play is completely open-ended games featuring consensual adjudication. There is some evidence,[footnote] when considering human conflict situations, that role play is a better predictor of outcomes than either a single ‘expert’, or game theory, or simulated interaction and unaided judgement for forecasting decisions in conflicts. »
[footnote = Green, K. C. (2005). Game theory, simulated interaction, and unaided judgement for forecasting decisions in conflicts: Further evidence. International Journal of Forecasting, 21(3), 463–472. You can download an earlier open-acces version here on SSRN]

vendredi 15 septembre 2017

D&D in prison... which kind of escapism ?

For inmates, tabletop role-playing games can be an important leasure activities.
  • « Above all, without fail, any gang ties, religious obligations or racial affiliations are superseded by the game. (...) Dungeons and Dragons is my rehabilitation that I can deal with to escape into my own reality to solve my own problems. » (1)
  • An inmate's justification of pencil-stabbing an inmate who was repeatedly interupting his game: « In the facility, we have three hours a day of pod time where we have access to the tables and we're not locked down. So we have very little time to game and this time has to be shared with phone calls, showers, etc. » (1)
  • Inmates can be ingenious to build DIY dice (2).

For the US penal system, TRPGs can be an activity that :
  • can lead to gang behavior, the « players looking at the Dungeon Masters, rather than to the prison's own carefully constructed hierarchy of authority.» (3)
  • « games like D & D can impede rehabilitation (...) could foster an inmate's obsession with escaping from the real life, correctional environment » (3)
  • can promote « competitive hostility, violence, and addictive escape behavior, which can compromise not only the inmate's rehabilitation and effects of positive programming » (3)
  • can be banned because « punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations. » (3)

If escapism is a strategy of avoidance, in this case « distraction from the suffering one has caused » (1), boreness of the prison,...  Frode Stenseng (4) found out it can lead to negative outcomes. He named this strategy self suppression escapism. [NB : Others comment it can also lead to positive outcomes, especialy in prison where boredom can lead to psychopathologies (5)]
If escapism is a framework for seeking new skills and improving personality, in this case
developing cooperative behavior, communicating, practicing simple math skills, using active imagination, playing the role of a character who experiment personal growth,... it can lead to positive outcomes. Stenseng named this strategy self-expansion escapism.

(1) Dragons in the Department of Corrections
(2) How Inmates Play Tabletop RPGs in Prisons Where Dice Are Contraband
(3) source: US Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit; with Google Scholar, search Case Law with "Singer v Raemisch". Context: in 2010, the court affirmed a judgement about the ban of D&D game and material in prison.
(4) U Oslo, Psychology.
(5) How to survive solitary confinement.  
Other sources used : When Dragons Plays Dungeons + Zotero database > History of RPG > RPG bashing and defense > prison.

Social Workers’ Perceptions of the Association Between Role Playing Games and Psychopathology [peer reviewed article]

Ben-Ezra, Menachem, Eric Lis, Agata Błachnio, Lia Ring, Osnat Lavenda et Michal Mahat-Shamir. « Social Workers’ Perceptions of the Association Between Role Playing Games and Psychopathology ». The Psychiatric Quarterly, 2017, 1‑6. doi:10.1007/s11126-017-9526-7.
The more social workers (n=130) know about RPGs like D&D, the less they see a connection between the use of RPGs and any psychopathology listed in the DSM-IV-TR.

This study follows 2 previous studies: Psychiatrists’ Perceptions of Role-Playing Games & Psychiatrists’ Perceptions of World of Warcraft and Other MMORPGs. The 2 studies were made from the same survey targeting psychiatrists practionners of the McGill U hospital network. They could have a response bias : 48 responded on 160. 22% of the psychiatrists who answered perceived a link between RPGs with mental health problems (such as depression, social anxiety...).23% once played RPGs, 6% in the last 6 months.

vendredi 8 septembre 2017

Role Immersion in a History Course: Online versus Face-to-Face in Reacting to the Past [peer-reviewd article]

Buchanan, Thomas C. and Edward Palmer. « Role Immersion in a History Course: Online versus Face-to-Face in Reacting to the Past ». Computers & Education 108 (2017), 85‑95. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2016.12.008.
Reacting to the past (RTTP) is a teaching technique based on historical non-costumed role-playing characters in debate scenarios.
It is costy because its a face-to-face technique. Authors find out making the role-play online has the same effect on learning, but the students like it less. For better students satisfaction, they suggest a mixed format, blending online techniques (preparation for the scenarios, video presentations, discussions) with face-to-face techniques (sophisticated negociations and decision-makings).
Notes: 2nd & 3rd year university students in Australia (n=51+87); a very good literature review.