PhD student Shafee Mohammed is first author on an article accepted for publication in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. The title of the article is "The Benefits and Challenges of Implementing Motivational Features to Boost Cognitive Training Outcome.” Additional UCI authors are Jacky Au, Chelsea Parlett, David Lee, Ellen Sheehan, and Associate Professor Susanne Jaeggi.
Mohammed, S., Flores, L., Deveau, J., Hoffing, R. C., Phung, C., Parlett, C. M., Sheehan, E., Lee, D., Au, J., Buschkuehl, M., Zordan, V., Jaeggi, S.M., & Seitz, A. R. (in press.). The benefits and challenges of implementing motivational features to boost cognitive training outcome. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.
In the current literature, there are a number of cognitive training studies that use Nback tasks as their training vehicle; however, the interventions are often bland, and many studies suffer from considerable attrition rates. An increasingly common approach to increase participant engagement has been the implementation of motivational features in training tasks; yet, the effects of such "gamification" on learning have been inconsistent. To shed more light on those issues, here, we report the results of a training study conducted at two Universities in Southern California. 115 participants completed 4 weeks (20 sessions) of N-back training in the lab. In the Nback training, we varied the amount of 'gamification' and the motivational features that might make the training more engaging, and potentially, more effective. Thus, 47 participants trained on a basic color/identity N-back with no motivational features, whereas 68 participants trained on a gamified version that translated the basic mechanics of the N-back task into an engaging 3D space-themed "collection" game (Deveau et al., 2015, Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience). Both versions used similar adaptive algorithms to increase the difficulty level as participants became more proficient. Participants' self-reports indicated that the group who trained on the gamified version enjoyed the intervention more than the group who trained on the nongamified version. Furthermore, the participants who trained on the gamified version exerted more effort and also improved more during training. However, despite the differential training effects, there were no significant group differences in any of the transfer measures at post-test, suggesting that the inclusion of motivational features neither substantially benefited nor hurt broader learning. Overall, our findings provide guidelines for task implementation to optimally target participants' interest and engagement to promote learning, which may lead to broader adoption and adherence of cognitive training.