Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Play


Although television, computer games and the Internet play an important role in the lives of children they still also play with physical toys, such as dolls, cars and LEGO bricks. The LEGO company has become the world’s largest toy manufacturer. Our study investigates if the LEGO company’s products have become more violent over time. First, we analyzed the frequency of weapon bricks in LEGO sets. Their use has significantly increased. Second, we empirically investigated the perceived violence in the LEGO product catalogs from the years 1978-2014. Our results show that the violence of the depicted products has increased significantly over time. The LEGO Company’s products are not as innocent as they used to be.

Concepts: Violence, Play, Game, Toy, Lego, Doll, Mattel


Recent theories from complexity science argue that complex dynamics are ubiquitous in social and economic systems. These claims emerge from the analysis of individually simple agents whose collective behavior is surprisingly complicated. However, economists have argued that iterated reasoning-what you think I think you think-will suppress complex dynamics by stabilizing or accelerating convergence to Nash equilibrium. We report stable and efficient periodic behavior in human groups playing the Mod Game, a multi-player game similar to Rock-Paper-Scissors. The game rewards subjects for thinking exactly one step ahead of others in their group. Groups that play this game exhibit cycles that are inconsistent with any fixed-point solution concept. These cycles are driven by a “hopping” behavior that is consistent with other accounts of iterated reasoning: agents are constrained to about two steps of iterated reasoning and learn an additional one-half step with each session. If higher-order reasoning can be complicit in complex emergent dynamics, then cyclic and chaotic patterns may be endogenous features of real-world social and economic systems.

Concepts: Game theory, Psychology, Emergence, Systems theory, Thought, Complex system, Play, Nash equilibrium


Empathy-putting oneself in another’s shoes-has been described as the “social glue” that holds society together. This study investigates how exposure to sexist video games can decrease empathy for female violence victims. We hypothesized that playing violent-sexist video games would increase endorsement of masculine beliefs, especially among participants who highly identify with dominant and aggressive male game characters. We also hypothesized that the endorsement of masculine beliefs would reduce empathy toward female violence victims. Participants (N = 154) were randomly assigned to play a violent-sexist game, a violent-only game, or a non-violent game. After gameplay, measures of identification with the game character, traditional masculine beliefs, and empathy for female violence victims were assessed. We found that participants' gender and their identification with the violent male video game character moderated the effects of the exposure to sexist-violent video games on masculine beliefs. Our results supported the prediction that playing violent-sexist video games increases masculine beliefs, which occurred for male (but not female) participants who were highly identified with the game character. Masculine beliefs, in turn, negatively predicted empathic feelings for female violence victims. Overall, our study shows who is most affected by the exposure to sexist-violent video games, and why the effects occur. (200 words).

Concepts: Male, Prediction, Gender, Violence, Play, Video game, Game, Gameplay


Physical activity helps people maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk for several chronic diseases. Although this knowledge is widely recognized, adults and children in many countries around the world do not get recommended amounts of physical activity. Although many interventions are found to be ineffective at increasing physical activity or reaching inactive populations, there have been anecdotal reports of increased physical activity due to novel mobile games that embed game play in the physical world. The most recent and salient example of such a game is Pokémon Go, which has reportedly reached tens of millions of users in the United States and worldwide.

Concepts: Medicine, Earth, United States, World, Play, Game, Games, Board game


How do humans learn to trust unfamiliar others? Decisions in the absence of direct knowledge rely on our ability to generalize from past experiences and are often shaped by the degree of similarity between prior experience and novel situations. Here, we leverage a stimulus generalization framework to examine how perceptual similarity between known individuals and unfamiliar strangers shapes social learning. In a behavioral study, subjects play an iterative trust game with three partners who exhibit highly trustworthy, somewhat trustworthy, or highly untrustworthy behavior. After learning who can be trusted, subjects select new partners for a second game. Unbeknownst to subjects, each potential new partner was parametrically morphed with one of the three original players. Results reveal that subjects prefer to play with strangers who implicitly resemble the original player they previously learned was trustworthy and avoid playing with strangers resembling the untrustworthy player. These decisions to trust or distrust strangers formed a generalization gradient that converged toward baseline as perceptual similarity to the original player diminished. In a second imaging experiment we replicate these behavioral gradients and leverage multivariate pattern similarity analyses to reveal that a tuning profile of activation patterns in the amygdala selectively captures increasing perceptions of untrustworthiness. We additionally observe that within the caudate adaptive choices to trust rely on neural activation patterns similar to those elicited when learning about unrelated, but perceptually familiar, individuals. Together, these findings suggest an associative learning mechanism efficiently deploys moral information encoded from past experiences to guide future choice.

Concepts: Game theory, Psychology, Learning, Knowledge, Behavior, Play, Shape, Player


Children learn words through an accumulation of interactions grounded in context. Although many factors in the learning environment have been shown to contribute to word learning in individual studies, no empirical synthesis connects across factors. We introduce a new ultradense corpus of audio and video recordings of a single child’s life that allows us to measure the child’s experience of each word in his vocabulary. This corpus provides the first direct comparison, to our knowledge, between different predictors of the child’s production of individual words. We develop a series of new measures of the distinctiveness of the spatial, temporal, and linguistic contexts in which a word appears, and show that these measures are stronger predictors of learning than frequency of use and that, unlike frequency, they play a consistent role across different syntactic categories. Our findings provide a concrete instantiation of classic ideas about the role of coherent activities in word learning and demonstrate the value of multimodal data in understanding children’s language acquisition.

Concepts: Linguistics, Language, Learning, Developmental psychology, Knowledge, Play, Language acquisition, Noam Chomsky


It is a common concern in the research field and the community that habitual violent video gaming reduces empathy for pain in its players. However, previous fMRI studies have only compared habitual game players against control participants cross-sectionally. However the observed pattern of results may be due to a priori differences in people who become gamers and who not. In order to derive the causal conclusion that violent video game play causes desensitisation, longitudinal studies are needed.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Causality, Play, Video game, Video game culture, Video game genres, Gameplay, Gaming


We tested the hypothesis that an environment with fewer toys will lead to higher quality of play for toddlers. Each participant (n=36) engaged in supervised, individual free play sessions under two conditions: Four Toy and Sixteen Toy. With fewer toys, participants had fewer incidences of toy play, longer durations of toy play, and played with toys in a greater variety of ways (Z=-4.448, p<0.001, r=-0.524; Z=2.828, p=0.005, r=0.333; and Z=4.676, p<0.001, r=0.55, respectively). This suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively. This can be offered as a recommendation in many natural environments to support children's development and promote healthy play.

Concepts: Environment, Natural environment, Play, Environmentalism, Environmental science, Game, Toy


There is wide agreement in the biomedical research community that research data sharing is a primary ingredient for ensuring that science is more transparent and reproducible. Publishers could play an important role in facilitating and enforcing data sharing; however, many journals have not yet implemented data sharing policies and the requirements vary widely across journals. This study set out to analyze the pervasiveness and quality of data sharing policies in the biomedical literature.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Medical research, Literature, Play, Journal, Pseudoscience, Minutes


Playing certain types of video games for a long time can improve a wide range of mental processes, from visual acuity to cognitive control. Frequent gamers have also displayed generalized improvements in perceptual learning. In the Texture Discrimination Task (TDT), a widely used perceptual learning paradigm, participants report the orientation of a target embedded in a field of lines and demonstrate robust over-night improvement. However, changing the orientation of the background lines midway through TDT training interferes with overnight improvements in overall performance on TDT. Interestingly, prior research has suggested that this effect will not occur if a one-hour break is allowed in between the changes. These results have suggested that after training is over, it may take some time for learning to become stabilized and resilient against interference. Here, we tested whether frequent gamers have faster stabilization of perceptual learning compared to non-gamers and examined the effect of daily video game playing on interference of training of TDT with one background orientation on perceptual learning of TDT with a different background orientation. As a result, we found that non-gamers showed overnight performance improvement only on one background orientation, replicating previous results with the interference in TDT. In contrast, frequent gamers demonstrated overnight improvements in performance with both background orientations, suggesting that they are better able to overcome interference in perceptual learning. This resistance to interference suggests that video game playing not only enhances the amplitude and speed of perceptual learning but also leads to faster and/or more robust stabilization of perceptual learning.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Improve, Cognitive science, Learning, Play, Video game, Video game culture