About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 597-608
Publication year: 2010
ISBN: 978-84-613-9386-2
ISSN: 2340-1117

Conference name: 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-7 July, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain

MOTIVATION IN COMPUTER GAMES: THE IMPACT OF REWARD UNCERTAINTY ON LEARNING.

S. Demetriou

University of Bristol (UNITED KINGDOM)
Attitudes towards school and school-type tasks seem to change as children go through primary and secondary school. Within this progression, motivation towards academic achievement can decrease, contrasting with children’s increased commitment to their social relationships and also, the use of computers for socialising and gaming. Both within social domains and within gaming practices, the levels of uncertainty that are encountered are greater than in many learning tasks (i.e. school based learning is more predictable in its trajectories) and this may influence the motivation for children to engage and develop their knowledge in these areas. There is neuroscientific evidence for uncertainty enhancing the approach motivation provided by reward, and such evidence also suggests approach motivation can be considered as a function of prediction error – the difference between the reward value and its expected value.

The grounds for the involvement of uncertainty and doubt in learning situations have early origins, with Dewey (1933) noting that “the origin of thinking is some perplexity, confusion, or doubt”. Wong (2007), theorizing on Dewey’s beliefs, proposes that uncertainty and anticipation in general, defined as the imaginative sensing of possibility, is an important motivation construct.

Research of both educational and psychological nature regarding effective learning especially in formal settings, suggests that elements of uncertainty act as motivators for learning. Particularly, as Sorrentino & Roney (2000) suggest, students’ involvement in uncertain situations, epistemic curiosity through collaborative learning, and encouragement of discovery should be promoted and encouraged to achieve effective learning. In particular, the researchers support that “if such uncertainty is created, by whatever means, the organism will be motivated to reduce it in order to achieve greater understanding”.

However, purely educational research has rarely focused itself specifically on the motivational role of uncertainty. Uncertainty has been frequently associated though with better well-researched concepts such as cognitive conflict which is often “associated with and evoked by” Dewey’s (1933) “perplexity, confusion and doubt” (Zaslavsky, 2005). There are many researchers who commonly consider conflict to be potentially beneficial to rational thinking and knowledge genesis (i.e. Berlyne, 1960; Dewey, 1933; Festinger, 1957; Piaget, 1985).

This is a study with adults about the exploration of the motivational properties of reward uncertainty and its impact on learning in the environment of an educational computer game. The investigations focused on positive reward prediction error and its relationship to successful or unsuccessful learning in the specific computer game context. An educational computer game especially designed for the purposes of this study was employed. The study found that, for recall, prediction error prior to successful learning was significantly higher [M = 17.55, SE = 1.35, t(15) = 3.51, p < .005, r = .67] compared to prediction error prior to unsuccessful learning in adults. These results are discussed from a neuroeducational perspective with reference to current concepts around cognition.
@InProceedings{DEMETRIOU2010MOT,
author = {Demetriou, S.},
title = {MOTIVATION IN COMPUTER GAMES: THE IMPACT OF REWARD UNCERTAINTY ON LEARNING.},
series = {2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN10 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-613-9386-2},
issn = {2340-1117},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {5-7 July, 2010},
year = {2010},
pages = {597-608}}
TY - CONF
AU - S. Demetriou
TI - MOTIVATION IN COMPUTER GAMES: THE IMPACT OF REWARD UNCERTAINTY ON LEARNING.
SN - 978-84-613-9386-2/2340-1117
PY - 2010
Y1 - 5-7 July, 2010
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN10 Proceedings
SP - 597
EP - 608
ER -
S. Demetriou (2010) MOTIVATION IN COMPUTER GAMES: THE IMPACT OF REWARD UNCERTAINTY ON LEARNING., EDULEARN10 Proceedings, pp. 597-608.
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