NORMAN — Sitting in her office at the University of Oklahoma's Research Campus, Norah Dunbar watches her computer screen as she guides a spy around a factory owned by a suspected terrorist.
To anyone who walked by, it might look like Dunbar was killing time with a video game. But Dunbar and her team hope the game could help people in the real-world intelligence community make better decisions.
Dunbar, a professor in OU's communication department, developed the game to help make players more aware of their cognitive biases, preconceived ideas that can affect a person's judgment and sometimes lead to poor decision-making.
The game, called “Macbeth,” gives players a group of suspects and information to help decide who committed the crime. The player guides agents as they collect information, and then decides whether that information was affected by certain types of cognitive bias.
The game is designed to test players for three kinds of bias: anchoring bias, projection bias and representativeness bias.
Anchoring bias causes the player to rely too heavily on the first piece of information he or she receives. Projection bias is a case where the player projects his or her own thought patterns onto another person, assuming they will be the same. A player operating under representativeness bias might judge an individual person based on stereotypes about a larger group.
Macbeth — an acronym for Mitigating Analyst Cognitive Bias by Eliminating Task Heuristics — was modeled after the classic board game Clue, Dunbar said.
The game's current version is the second Dunbar and her team developed. The team developed Macbeth's first incarnation with a grant from Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a federal agency that funds research and development for the intelligence field.
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