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Game Provides Language Development Insights 18

Posted by Zonk
from the stickshift-razorblade-lemur dept.
void*p writes "The Economist is running an article about a computer game developed by Bruno Galantucci, a cognitive scientist at Yale. In the game, two players must find each other in a four-room building by making a single move. The catch is that the players can only communicate using invented symbols. Surprisingly, Galantucci found that teams not only communicated effectively, but also developed startlingly different sets of symbols. Galantucci's 2004 dissertation on the subject (PDF) can be found online."
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Game Provides Language Development Insights

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  • WOW! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rnd() (118781) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @01:35PM (#14045188) Homepage
    This experiment is very cool if you've studied generative linguistics. It brings the idea of innate (or universal grammar) into an experimental paradigm. Of course, there are many shortcomings, such as the contrived nature of the symbols and their visual nature, but at its core this experiment could pave the way for all kinds of incredible experiments and perhaps allow cognitive scientists and linguistic syntacticians to have some productive dialogues (surprisingly, they currently don't really do this)...
    • Re:WOW! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mooingyak (720677)
      I was wondering how much existing knowledge/language would influence the outcome. Would people from similar backgrounds be more able to invent useful language than people from different backgrounds? Would certain groups of people, or matches of people end up working together better than others? Male/female differences?

      I also got the impression you could probably do morse code with the device though.
      • Re:WOW! (Score:2, Funny)

        by Marc Boucher (235490)
        That's exactly what I was thinking.
        What about an experiment with a bushman (or an australian aborigine) and a texan? :)
      • His dissertation basically proves that this experiment can be used to determine these things.

        These experiments do not provide any definitive answers about the development of language, it just proves a means for continuing on with further studies using the methodology developed.

        This experiment is about the experiment itself, not about the result.
  • by Zed0 (914527)
    There are several ways that existing codes could be used but the chances are that two random people will not both know a code that could be used. Of course if one knows one say morse then they could write the alphabet in morse and hope the other person understands that it is the alphabet. I would be interested to see exactly how these screens work, they would have to move fairly fast to be impossible to write on. I'm tempted to create a game like this just to test out with my friends.
    • This is mentioned in the dissertation paper.

      One possible exception to this could be the adoption of Morse code. However, this is a rather remote possibility for it is highly improbable that two randomly chosen participants both know enough Morse code to use it in a reliable manner. Moreover, should the unlikely event occur, the pair would be dropped from the study. (Incidentally, this way of proceeding is preferable to explicitly telling players that they should not use the Morse code, for such a pres

  • Tork (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fëanáro (130986) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:20PM (#14045592)
    Time to plug a short flash game i found a while ago, which does kind of the same thing (single player):

    TORK [abc.net.au]

    You are stranded on a foreign planet, and can only comunicate with the aliens in a sort of sign language. As you progress throught the game you have to become more and more fluent. Try it!
  • "In other words, people only need to convey a small amount of information to communicate effectively, and they can do so while holding fundamentally different ideas about how their language describes the world."

    Hundreds of slashdotters disagree.

    Seriously, though, I'm not sure this applies to effective communication beyond what was tested. If you want to communicate effectively about very complex concepts, you need a complex language, and most likely a shared perception of how your language describes t
    • How about this version of the experiment: 4 cards in 4 differend colors. Both have to pick the same color. Except for the color, all 4 cards are identical and they can be present in any way, so you can't rely on their relative location.
      • Except for the color, all 4 cards are identical

        You'll have a lot of men dropping out of your experiment due to defective color vision genes.

  • Or actually most of the paper, grokking through boring parts, reading the more interesting ones.
    Conclusions from a nerd's point of view:
    Cool game with some nice catches. I'd probably love to play it with some other nerd, and we would probably sweep the board.
    But there is one problem: moron co-players. If I was pitted with a cretin like player A from game 5, I'd likely tear my hairs or just quit after 5 mins. The game does force thinking and developing cooperative strategy, and if one of players isn't willin
    • If you're talking about Pair 5, Player B was the idiot in that scenario. If you're talking about Pair 6, well, yeah.

      "You cannot use your brain to decide, it's luck..." that's funny.

      Rob
      • was writing from memory. Yeah, pair 6 then.
        Well, "You cannot use your brain to decide, it's luck...", the answer is "No, YOU cannot, I can." :)

        Likely first 2-3 minutes on establishing the dictionary. Forget icons, won't remember them. Use "door locations", L, +, =| |= etc. symbols. Easy to scale.Game 1, answer with target location, self - not moving, or common meeting point, move in there. Prey: Yes, split search, mark location, split in map in 2 unequal ownership shares, call when prey found. Foes: Again
        • The players didn't know the board would be expanded. I'd imagine you'd set up a more impromptu language system if you thought it was a simple game on a 2x2 grid.
          • First, position of the room is more meaningful than icon. In labyrinth-based games I more often tend to refer to room layout than other features. But even if I developed 4-room icon-based language, I'd likely replace it with location-based one for 9-room, and certainly for 16-room. I'm not able to remember 16 separate icons on the fly, but the "geography" is pretty obvious.
  • by rubberbando (784342) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @04:39PM (#14046861)
    I read the article but something is bothering me about the scenario..

    How can you find someone if you have never been to where they are and they have never been to where you are?

    I mean, if you or the other player has been through the whole place, then one of you would have the info needed to describe (sketch) the directions to the other person.

    If you only know the room you are in and the other person only knows the room he/she's in, how would either of you know what is in between and if there is anything in between you at all?
    • by Pluvius (734915)
      The players are allowed to examine their environment before the start of the game.

      Rob

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