On Thursday, May 25th, 2017, Warp Zone hosted Louisville IxDA’s June meetup, “Biases in User Research Created by YOU!” The speaker for the event was Darren Kall, the Managing Director of Specific Clarity. He’s worked with a wide variety of companies like AT&T Bell Laboratories, Microsoft, and IBM. He spoke about a variety of different biases and how they can have an effect on research data. We all have biases. It’s a part of human nature and we wouldn’t be humans without them. Darren made this workshop very engaging by having the audience practice different exercises that helped us recognized a particular bias and we walked away with different solutions we can implement.
This led me to do my own research on bias, how it can affect our decision-making, and some practical ways we can all work on our own bias.
What is a bias?
Before attending this event I was watching a course on Lynda.com by Stacey Gordon called “Unconscious Bias.” Stacey is cofounder and chief human capital consultant at Career Incubator. Her course was very informative. If you didn’t get to attend Darren’s event, you should definitely check out her course. Stacey defines unconscious bias as “the attitudes or stereotypes that effect our views, our actions, and our decision-making ability.”
TechTarget.com defines Cognitive bias as “Cognitive bias is a limitation in objective thinking that is caused by the tendency for the human brain to perceive information through a filter of personal experience and preferences.”
We all see the world through a filter of some sort. Our life experience has kind of jaded us. This can have both positive and negative impact on our judgement. There are a lot of different types of bias and I encourage you to research them on your own. I am going to talk about 3 of them here and I challenge you to search for even more.
Three Examples of Bias
Psychology Today explains that confirmation bias “occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.”
So you have this one track mind and you are determined to see this thing through. You retire team members that weren’t on board. You become the lone wolf on your idea. Who knows if it will work out the way you had hoped. You are just dead set on this one idea and failure isn’t an option. Well, either you are the most ambitious person in the world or you are a victim of your own Confirmation Bias.
WiseGeek.com says “The status quo bias is a cognitive bias that leads people to prefer that things remain the same, or that they change as little as possible, if they absolutely must be altered. This cognitive bias plays a role in a number of fields, including economics, political science, sociology, and psychology, and many studies have been conducted on it to look at ways in which it influences human behavior. By being aware of the role that the status quo bias plays in their own lives, people can take steps to reduce the influence of this bias on their decision making.”
I think everyone is guilty of having a status-quo bias. You’ve used the same staple programs for years and learning something new is a struggle. So as new talent and new ideas are being introduced into your work area, you may be uncomfortable. You were the lead web designer on the team using Photoshop and the new designer on the team is showing people how to design and prototype with Sketch and Adobe XD. So now you feel some type of way. This was the design process everyone was using 5 years ago and now it’s becoming obsolete?
Pagewiz.com some good definitions on what Framing means. “Framing is the relationship between context and information as it determines meaning.” “Framing is not about what is said, but how it is said.” “…the way words and concepts are presented and “slanted” so that they will produce a wished-for effect”
Marketers and Advertisers love framing. Sometimes you have to bend things a little in order to get a desired result. It’s wrong to outright lie to people, but if you want to sell something, you have to make it attractive to people. Another example is politics. The candidate has to frame their opponent in a negative light and make their platform appealing. Vice versa. The end goal is one candidate will win, the other will lose. Is one political platform actually better than the other? This is where framing gets involved. Using words in a way to persuade people in a certain direction.
Putting solutions into practice
So in what way can we tackle Confirmation Bias? Well, is it healthy to go all in on one idea? Sometimes the most ambitious endeavors pay off. Who said that anything is full proof? Also, there is always risk involved in anything that you do. Just make sure that the moves that you make and the direction you are heading is based on objective facts and not on wishful thinking. Try introducing an unbiased third party or someone who is not directly involved in your department to sit in on the discussion, listen to all sides, and offer some suggestions.
How to get out of being in the Status-quo? Embrace the change and learn to master it. Constantly attend meetups, conferences, and participate in chat groups and forums to keep the conversation flowing; try out new software with an open mind. Start small and work your way up to get acquainted with that new thing. People still use Photoshop to design digital products. Show off how your staple tool can still be relevant. Always be learning.
Do you think that you are the type of person who can’t fall for anything? That you can’t be “sold” on something? People have cognitive bias for and against different words. So things are framed all the time to influence our behavior. Just try to be more rational in your thinking. Don’t jump the gun. Crunch the numbers. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. So don’t let framing frame You!
How this could relate to game development?
There are a lot of games out there. I mean a LOT. So when you think about that next project, you’ve gathered your team, and you’re ready to hit the drawing board, try to minimize the amount of bias in your creative process.
From what I have researched about bias, some of the ways we can overcome our biases is by trying to be as objective, practical, and practice good listening skills. Have a diverse team of people with different backgrounds. The first idea is not always the best. Really test this idea out to its limits. Don’t waste time and money on an idea that isn’t fully vetted. If it’s not a great idea at first, that’s OK. Either perfect it or set it to the side until it can be picked up later. Also, be honest. Don’t let emotion get in the way and be realistic. Don’t try to make it into something that it just isn’t. Finally, communicate with your team. Don’t stay silent. If something’s not right say something. You will either get the answer you need or maybe save the team.
Could this be the ultimate game? Like Final Fantasy? To win against your own cognitive bias? I wonder if that’s possible. Maybe a computer program could. Probably not a human being. But if you could, what would the prize be? $1,000,000? How about I settle for winning the smaller battles and being satisfied with that. In games you have to fail a few times before you can win a battle. I can start over. I can still gain XP and then it’s off to the next stage.
If you have a game you and your team has been working on, we would love to see it. So in the near future we will be hosting more Play Testing Nights at Warp Zone Louisville. If you are not a Warp Zone member, reach out to a member and let’s hang out and try your game. It’s a great way to get feedback and constructive criticism.
Veronica Rivera is a Graphic Designer and Front-End Developer living in Louisville, KY. She has been a part of the Louisville Makes Games community for over a year and loves making games that are fun and colorful. She graduated in Fall 2011 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Western Kentucky University. She works full time as a Graphic/Web Designer for Jefferson County Public Schools and is a Designer and Developer for Rise & Shine Games. Drunken Boss Fight, PolyMorphic, Flip Flap, Cali Bunga, and Guppi are among the games she has helped to create. Favorite games are the Sims, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Tamagotchi, Tales of Phantasia, and Chrono Trigger. You can follow her on social media @justvcreative and Rise & Shine Games @riseshinegames.