People Try Harder When Gaming Against Humans

Discussion in 'Psychology' started by SeF, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. SeF

    SeF New Member

    A recent study on brain patterns shows that people who think they are playing against real people try harder, then when they believe they are playing against computers.

    "Playing games against a computer activates different brain areas from those activated when playing against a human opponent. New research has shown that the belief that one is playing against a virtual opponent has significant effects on activation patterns in the brain"

    Full Article:
  2. 2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616

    2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616 Well-Known Member

    nice to have back up for what I always thought.
  3. RoieTRS

    RoieTRS Active Member

    It seems so obvious, yet so far fetched at the same time.
  4. hitogoroshi

    hitogoroshi Active Member

    Breaking news: people are competitive
  5. Xom

    Xom Patreon Supporter

    RtFA; the game in the study was the Prisoner's Dilemma.
  6. CWheezy

    CWheezy Well-Known Member

    I'm kind of interested in the potential follow up study on the differences when a man is playing with a woman in the room vs man by himself, etc.
  7. obsidian

    obsidian New Member

    While I can't disagree with the study, in my own playing, I wouldn't have guessed that I play any harder against human competitors, although I admittedly play differently against them. When playing computer players, I have a sense of predictability and cater to that - however right or wrong that may be, but when playing against a human competitor, I do try to shake things up a bit and remain somewhat unpredictable - which in turn is the more difficult route to take, I suppose.
  8. angeldemonyo

    angeldemonyo New Member

    I'd definitely play more riskier against humans than cpus. Cpus can calculate all the risks and take advantage of my mistakes better than humans. I'd be prompted to go with the safer options against computers.
  9. FinalSlayer

    FinalSlayer Banned

    Yeah, in the context of chess, one's style of play against a human and CPU player is vastly different. Not necessarily stronger or weaker either, just two separate approaches.

    In fact, it gets even more interesting, as the style of play against a CPU in the late eighties was very different than the style in the late nineties was extremely different than the style employed today.
  10. ryzol

    ryzol Member

    For me, I normally try harder against people than computers because people rarely have an unfair advantage. In most typical videogame boss fights, the boss is a lot stronger, and predictable in the same way each time (memorized pattern). This normally involves some sort of dexterity challenge too, or requires good timing. This is something I generally find pretty boring.

    Whereas playing against a person, in a well designed game competitive game we start out basically the same. Which only means the better player wins, not the guy with 12x hp, and a super move. There's also more of a history/grudge/rivalry factor with people. I've never felt a rivalry against a cpu.

    I think I would try pretty hard if someone made an strong turing complete AI for a competitive game I enjoy. I have no idea if I would try harder against a turing complete AI or a strong opponent. Probably the strong opponent, but I'm not really sure why. A turing complete AI in a fun competitive game that improved to match your skill level would be pretty awesome.

    Anyways this is just all how I personally view fighting cpus vs. fighting humans.
  11. IADj.B

    IADj.B New Member

    lol, scientists discover a fact that most gamers and a significant number of non gamers knew long before they even thought about investigating the topic.

    Not that I'm anti-intellectual or anything, but seriously, where's that cure for cancer?
  12. Lofobal

    Lofobal Well-Known Member

    And because I know you're all too lazy to click that,
    The wikipedia article is pretty weak, so I'll dig up a better article later.
  13. IADj.B

    IADj.B New Member


    I know I can be an idiot/dipshit/sarcastic at times, but please give me more credit that that. I'm not too lazy to click on an informative link unless I'm pressed for time or something.
  14. AK404

    AK404 New Member

    What kind?

    Also, necro-posting.

    Also, computer doesn't care if it wins or loses, which is why I suppose it's so irritating when certain game companies decide to make the AI super-cheap.
  15. 2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616

    2000 IQ Killjoy Gamer link6616 Well-Known Member

    First post and it';s necro. Well done!

    And I agree about the AI thing... GGXXAC's I-no boss is just annoying.
  16. Lofobal

    Lofobal Well-Known Member

    Some players like playing against super cheap bosses. ;shrug;

    Also necro-posting is fine and anyone who is against it is dumb. :)

    edit - Oh, this is the thread with stuff about hindsight bias. Here's some more of that.
  17. darkcrobat

    darkcrobat Member

    Interesting. I know that I certainly play harder against humans than cpus, however that may be because of the situations that I play them in. For example, if at evo everyone was playing cpus, I'm sure they would play just as hard as against humans. Same goes for ranked matches on xbox live.
  18. Grant

    Grant New Member

    In this situation, although their match opponent would be a CPU, in fact they would be competing against the win-records of other humans. So, really, they're still competing against humans, and it wouldn't prove anything.
  19. Majidah

    Majidah Well-Known Member

    Sweet this is actually my field! Observe the following quote:

    Note the highlighted portions. Here's a good rule of thumb when reading popular accounts of cognitive neuroscience, if you see the phrase "Activates different brain areas" or some similar variant, know this: Someone, somewhere, is an idiot.

    I've read the primary document and I'm reasonably confident in saying that the researchers here are probably not the idiots (though they might not be getting great returns on their grant money). Their experiment was asking a much deeper and more complex question, and their results are actually more interesting than what is reported in the article, so I suspect that the idiot in this case is the anonymous science daily writer.

    This writer is a dope because they're a dualist. They've bought into the notion that brain states and mind states are unrelated. If I say "you're playing against a computer program," that creates some mental state which has a corresponding bio-chemo-electro-physiological state in your brain because the brain is the physical object which implements the mental state. If I then tell you "now you'll play against a human," that creates a different mental state (assuming that you think a human != computer program), and therefore, there must be some difference in the underlying brain activation. This doesn't even really require brain imaging, it's our baseline expectation. It would be a much more significant finding if there was no difference between playing a human and a computer. To the author's credit, he or she does mention the important part of the study, but it's burying the lead because they still think that a brain lighting up in response to a cognitive change is magic.

    The actually interesting part of the original article is which brain structures are activated, and male/female differences. There are a lot of sort of evaluative regions in the limbic lobe which come on either when playing a against a "machine" or a "person" (though really, it's always a machine, the participants are lied to). Which means that people are developing hypotheses about how the opponent is going to act. When it's a "human" opponent, these areas are more active, suggesting people are putting more effort into this process, and probably developing more complex, yomi-rific strategies.
  20. JuJube

    JuJube New Member

    Why do they keep doing science research to confirm the "No shit, Sherlock" questions when they could be curing cancer?
  21. Majidah

    Majidah Well-Known Member

    Again, the scientists are doing important research. The science daily reporter is giving a very narrow, shallow account of it such that it sounds like NSS stuff.
    Like this: "Shit falls at the same speed says area heretic." "Humans and monkeys a lot alike says man with passing resemblance to monkey." "Objects keep rolling when you let go of them says weird celibate dude on the edge of town." "Inhaling burning leaves is bad for you say scientists not cool enough to smoke."

    Also, imagine the result had been "People try harder against the computer, because they don't want to hurt the human player's feelings." Wouldn't that also seem perfectly obvious in hindsight?
  22. pictish

    pictish Member

    Joke post or real?

    This is such an incredibly ignorant statement about scientists/science I don't know where to begin.

    Majidah makes an admirable first point though, cutting to the heart of the matter.
  23. JuJube

    JuJube New Member

    Well, begin somewhere please, because I don't know why all these resources spent on pointless little studies of something we can't begin to understand can't be spent trying to fight something that is possible to understand that is killing many people. No, it wasn't a joke post.

    It doesn't jive with observation. Some competitive players actively try to hurt their opponent's winnings to gain an edge.
  24. Majidah

    Majidah Well-Known Member

    AFAIK, the sample was college students, not "competitive players"

    Again, before making this statement, it might be helpful to read the actual article in question, which is mostly about sex differences and theory of mind, and almost not at all about "people try harder against a computer." Here's the link:

    I appreciate that it is somewhat jargon-filled and difficult going, but by reading through it, you may be able to do what the science daily reporter could not: actually understand the research which is going on.

    Not to derail this thread, but from inside academia where I am, the problem is almost the exact opposite of the one you mention. Here's a graph:


    This is the NIH budget break down. You can see it's roughly split in half, with about half of the money going toward disease research (this includes NIAID=infections disease and allergies, heart disease and cancer) and about half going toward all other research. To me, this is a questionable allocation of funds. Curing cancer is a worthy goal, but cancer is a disease of disrupted basic cellular processes like mitotic regulation, cellular respiration and DNA transcription error-repair. We don't yet understand these basic cellular functions, let alone what goes wrong to cause cancer. However, there's a cultural thing going on here, if you say "I'm going to cure cancer" people will throw money at you. If you say "I'm going to study transcriptase-1" people will maybe fund it if the budget wasn't cut this year and they feel like it and you out compete 20 other studies. However, understanding those basic processes may make curing cancer trivial. Curing cancer's not like paying off a mortgage, where throwing enough money at the problem will fix it, it's sometimes hard to know what will help.

    The study at the top of this post (which again, I encourage you to read), is basic research. It's trying to understand how the mind works (which I do not think is impossible). If we know how basic things like evaluation and theory of mind work, maybe it will be easier to treat depression (who's sufferers evaluate their lives as hopeless) or autism (who's sufferers treat other people more like inanimate objects) borderline personality disorder (more commonly known as psycopathy, who's sufferers evaluate other minds as things which serve no other purpose than to be manipulated for selfish ends).

    Does this help?
  25. Lofobal

    Lofobal Well-Known Member

    Wow, are you just too lazy to scroll up to where I answered this question previously? Reading threads is not hard. The short answer is that you have hindsight bias.
  26. JuJube

    JuJube New Member

    It's not hindsight bias. I admit that I am too emotionally invested in this topic to discuss it reasonably.
  27. pictish

    pictish Member

    Majidah you are my new favourite person.
  28. Lofobal

    Lofobal Well-Known Member

    If you think the results were "obvious," then yes, it's hindsight bias.

    When you finally accept that it's not obvious, your question becomes "why study X instead of trying to cure cancer?" for X is pretty much any scientific reseach, and I shouldn't need to explain why that is silly.

    Majidah's post is fantastic and deserves more +1s than it has.
  29. Majidah

    Majidah Well-Known Member

    I don't want to marginalise juju's views. It's clear that this issue is really important to him and that's good. It suggests that someone who is not a direct beneficiary of research money cares about how it's spent, and specifically, he's worried that it's not being used to help people as efficiently as it could. It shows good character on his part.

    My posts were just to clarify that it's hard to know exactly what research is important up front, and sometimes it's not obvious what is important. Most media outlets, even scientific ones, do neither taxpayers nor scientists any favours by reporting dumbed-down and inaccurate stuff.

    I do think there's tremendous room for common ground on this issue, and it has to do with the tops of those bars. You'll notice that NIH's funding (in 2008 dollars) peaks around 2003 and then begins to fall off. Further, the total amount of money spent is only around $30 billion dollars. About 1 month in Iraq, 20 days worth of Medicare, or 1/23rd of the TARP funds. Increasing this number means more basic research for me, and more applied research for juju. I think the politics forum is maybe the best place to continue such a discussion.
  30. garcia1000

    garcia1000 World Champion Moderator (old) Staff Member

    :) :) :) :)
    Majidah posts good
  31. JuJube

    JuJube New Member

    To me, this question becomes "Why study something that won't save lives instead of something that definitely will", so yeah, I'm still unreasonable in that regard.
  32. pictish

    pictish Member

    Why be a stand up comedian? It wont save lives.

    Why be an artist? You surely wont save lives.

    There's value to these things, and there is value to knowledge and science in areas not immediatly obviously useful.

    Edit: To make it more clear with a science comparison - why study sub atomic particles or quantum mechanics? It's not obvious that it will save lives. Maybe it will maybe it wont. It's the pursuit of knowledge that is worthwhile though! Dedicating your life to learning more about the universe is at least as valid as writing about it or singing about it. It'd be sad if all anyone did was for one purpose.
  33. garcia1000

    garcia1000 World Champion Moderator (old) Staff Member

    Please, think of the childrens!!!
  34. JuJube

    JuJube New Member

    I understand all this, but the way I see it, cancer is a primary concern. It is what kills most people in this day and age and it's a plague at this point.
  35. garcia1000

    garcia1000 World Champion Moderator (old) Staff Member

    No, it's not.
  36. JuJube

    JuJube New Member

    Thanks for that well-cited rebuttal; I'll change my opinion immediately.
  37. Majidah

    Majidah Well-Known Member

    Garcia is factually correct, but brusque as usual.


    In most developed nations cardiovasular disease is number 1, cancer number 2, stroke 3, then chronic respirtory diseases, diabetes, accident etc. This actually holds true for most nations on earth now since there have been massive strides in reducing deaths from infectious disease and malnutrition (yay!). Notice the "all other category." Fun fact: surgical misadventure is a big contributor to that one.

    However, I don't think that this is really a solution to the argument. Juju's convictions don't come from a lack of information, they come from life experience and belief. Even though I think juju's original statement might be a little unfair, I'm more interested in what he has to say than what I have to say. I-told-you-sos are not really a substitute for dialogue.

    I'm curious what the objection is precisely. Allocation of resources is tricky, people have tried lots of ways to go about it with mixed success. I personally don't think dedicating 100% of all available resources to saving lives has a particularly good track record. For instance, if you wanted to save the most lives in the near term, it might be wise to pull all research funds and put them into providing existing medical care to patients who can't afford it. It might be wise to ignore cancer entirely, and go after CVD. It might be wise to spend the money enforcing a tobacco ban. So I'd like to know a little more about how you think the resources should be allocated.

    In addition, it sounds to me like you're suggesting that research which has no practical application, but only extends humankind's knowledge should be avoided. I disagree with that, I think that knowledge is its own end and worthwhile in its own right.
  38. garcia1000

    garcia1000 World Champion Moderator (old) Staff Member

    Are you saying you're too lazy to look up the facts for yourself? That is the minimum standard required for reasonable discourse.
  39. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    Why caring so much about making less people die?
    We are overpopulating here!.

    I prefer have live 40 years of deep happiness than 70 years of mediocrity.
    My point?
    If we are going for alturism studies (wich doesn't have to be, personally I don't care much for alturism) The priority should be about finding ways to make the population happier. And in that regard finding a cure for cancer is very very low on my priority list. What about finding Social and Economic solutions to a disparity world? What about doing somethign about that?
    Personally I seriously doubt that most people looking for cancer's cure are doing it for alturistic reasons.

    I don't know the reasons this scientifics decided to make this study instead of looking for cancer's cure. What I Do know, is that this study benefited me more. Saving lifes is not top priority. And yes, i have one cancer death in familiy. And 2 cancer's cured cases on my circles.
    Of course if the question would be "would you want this study or the cure to cancer". I would say cure to cancer. But can you really say how significant would for the finding of cancer's cure, that the resources of this study to be allocated on it?. In my mind it's "very little" But i accept that the "very little" is as arbitrary as the concept of "very little" itself.
  40. JuJube

    JuJube New Member

    My perspective comes from being sick all my life and being around people who are.

    It's easy to say "well, yeah, people get cancer, but it doesn't affect me personally" when you don't have relatives with cancer. Witnessing what it does to someone close to you might change your mind. After watching numerous relatives and friends lose to cancer (I'm sure some of you remember Brian "Mummy-B" Graham), I can honestly say that it's worth the resources to fight cancer as vigorously as possible.

    Majidah is doing his best to understand his position, and we're making progress on getting me on a more rational track in this regard. The snark the rest of you are offering me shows me that you have near-zero experience with sick people, so I can safely ignore the lot. Although I will agree that studying to gain knowledge for knowledge's own sake isn't valueless, I also think that we need to prioritize. The knowledge will be there to gain later.
  41. Shiri

    Shiri Well-Known Member

    Science has worked pretty well for a while now on the understanding that knowledge which is not immediately obvious as useful may still turn out to be useful once you've figured it out or later down the line in general.

    You also explicitly assume that we have no chance of figuring out how the mind (?) works. I don't think your skepticism is well-founded. Psychology, sociology and philosophy of mind (with input from ostensibly unrelated fields, see point #1) have all advanced awfully far awfully fast even within living memory.
  42. Grant

    Grant New Member

    Psychology, et al., can also claim to have saved lives, of course.

    My sympathies regarding cancer. It could be regarded as somewhat bad taste to debate the relative importance of these tasks with somebody who is ill. However, I agree with this: "It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him..." *

    The ridiculous extension of the argument is a situation where we happen to be witness to a man donating time or money towards some other charitable concern - hunger, homelessness, etc. - and feel angry that he is not using his resources instead to cure cancer. Mothers tending to their children? - same thing; stop playing patty-cake, what about cancer.

    * The quote is from Civil Disobedience.
  43. pictish

    pictish Member

    I lost a very dear and special friend to an extended and painful fight with cancer. However, I find this fact irrelevant when discussing how much effort should be put into fighting cancer.

    If I seem to be flippant, it is because I don't believe personal feelings are much use when deciding objective things, so I disregard them. So I can sympathise the subject might be difficult for you, but I don't think that changes reality any.

    Regardless Majidah's posts are still A++
  44. garcia1000

    garcia1000 World Champion Moderator (old) Staff Member

    I lost a close family member to cancer recently, and I find it disgusting for you to play the "I am around cancer" card.
  45. Grant

    Grant New Member

    okay now somebody link to sad animal crossing
  46. sage

    sage Well-Known Member

    Some people - maybe one person who knows who he is - is being a bit more abrasive than is called for, considering it's obvious you were talking from personal experience.
    It's easy to assume that the people you're dealing with have alien experiences just because they don't agree with you. I've also lost a close relative to cancer, but I vehemently disagree with the idea that if more resources are put towards cancer, that would be morally better than studying the brain, or finding a better economic system, or feeding starving children living in poverty.

    "No Shit, Sherlock" studies don't always set out to take a commonly held belief and prove/disprove it. They might be studying something else, and on the way they prove something. Knowing the proof behind something you already know is true isn't worthless - knowledge is iterative, and knowing why a known thing works can give you insight into unknown things. You might find it silly that the first thing we did in first year algebra was prove that -1*a = -a, where -a is defined as the additive inverse of a (a + (-a) = 0). We started with basic field theory to fully explore the tools we were dealing with, and to lay a groundwork for dealing with other fields in later years of study. And all that abstract work feeds a field that has produced things like the function that encodes music to make portable, digital music players possible.
    I could be spending my money on a medical education to directly safe lives in the future, but I would be more useful in the abstract sciences.
  47. BullDancer

    BullDancer New Member

    Well people are being a bit abrasive, i guess it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you lost a relative or close friend to cancer(I too have lost many, and it is all too prevalent, all of the relatives i was the closest to died from cancer) but this is besides the point, i do not think all money should go into health and medicine. Because whether all money goes into medicine or not does not change the fact that we will all die someday, so i would rather spend time enjoying myself(knowledge about things other than health helped create things i enjoy every day), so thats how i feel.... now thats over so im going to find some sad animal crossing music

    EDIT: This is as sad as animal crossing gets but im not sure what emotion you are supposed to be feeling though, the song is kinda odd weird chanting noises and all that Ill get to replying soon just gotta read that article
  48. Majidah

    Majidah Well-Known Member

    I'm glad this thread has served as a place where people could talk about this issue. I like it when people bring their personal experiences and feelings to a discussion, it gives me a better sense of what's motivating them and makes it more likely that someone will have something totally unique to say.

    However, since I made some mean grunts about the OP article a few posts back (specifically that I thought the Science daily write-up was crap), I thought I'd try to wrench the discussion back on topic with a brief rundown of what the experiment was actually about.

    Let's start with the title:
    Are women better mindreaders? Sex differences in neural correlates of mentalizing detected with functional MRI

    Why on earth the Science daily article didn't start here I'll never know. Gender differences in mind-reading is way more interesting than the human/computer question. There's a cultural stereotype at least here in the states that women are better at detecting and responding to others' mental processes. However, this could just be a stereotype, the study could disprove it, they could confirm it, or they could find something else again, such as there are good mind readers among both men and women.

    This topic comes from a literature called "theory of mind." One of the brain's powerful capabilities is to make little online simulations of things in the world. This lets an organism test hypothesis about the world using the knowledge it's already gathered. Humans are especially good at this, and often employ a special kind of simulation where we develop a theory about what other people might do based on our knowledge of how thinking-especially our own-works. Empathy is one example. Another might be, when garcia and I are playing yomi, I might say: Well he thinks I'll block, so I'd better attack instead. That's a theory of mind. Prior fMRI and lesion (brain damage) studies have linked ToM to many brain regions, especially including the medial prefrontal cortex (middle of the brain, in the very front, on the surface, kinda in that crack that runs the length of it), the right temporo-parietal junction (know those two things that hang off the side of the brain like the jaws of an elite in Halo? This region is right in that little joint of the jaw), and the anterior cingulate cortex (sorta in the same place as the mPFC, only deeper in that crack).

    So the study asks 2 questions:

    1) How do men and women differ in the behaviors and brain activations relating to ToM activities.

    2) How does ToM differ when you're playing against a machine instead of a human.

    The second part, as you can probably guess, is mostly a control for the first part. In both cases, players played a prisoner's dilemma type game, where you chose to cooperate or compete for different pay offs. Long term cooperation payed well, but occasional competition played better. Sometimes the game was played where you earned points for yourself, and sometimes where you earned points for your partner.

    The first question turned out to be mostly a bust. There were no differences in the reaction times of men and women, nor in their final pay-off regardless of whether they were against a "man" or "computer" (of course, they were actually always against a RNG). Both used a very competitive strategy. The only significant difference was that women would play slightly more competatively in the condition where they were earning points for their partner. Regions of brain activation were pretty much the same also across these conditions.

    The only real brain activation differences were in the condition where people played against a computer, where both groups had slightly higher activation in ToM regions against the human. Men had slightly more mPFC than women, while women had slightly more ACC than men. Even this doesn't tell us anything clear, because there are some confounds. Men and women always played against a "man" in the "human" condition, which might lead to differences in play style. In addition, you always have to be really careful when reading fMRI papers. There's a huge amount of statistical analysis required to cook raw magnet readings into something usable, and things can go wrong at many steps in that chain. my brief perusal of the statistics suggest that this probably was not the case in this study, but I'd need to spend way more time to be sure.

    In any case, I think this analysis demonstrates that something way more subtle was going on in the original study, and that a way more interesting finding was found: Men and women are equally good at mind reading. The computer v. human thing was really not the main point nor the main result, but I think the SD reporter saw "no significant difference" and thought "no significant finding," which happens more than you might think.
  49. BullDancer

    BullDancer New Member

    Well there was probably less activation in the ToM(theory of mind) areas of the brain against the computer, because by instinct humans will try to understand the intentions of another human and/or animal. That's why when you "feel" that someone or something is dangerous, they most likely are. But when gaming against the computer, ToM has a limited use because a computer is not a living thing, much harder to predict something that you dont understand. I would think that the most use you would get off of attempting to predict a computer is to search for a pattern. Competition and usage of theory of mind is IMO a human trait, not one completely related or related at all to gender
  50. Majidah

    Majidah Well-Known Member

    Of course, another way to put BD's point might simply be: Humans tend to use more complicated strategies than computers.

    So we treat computers exactly like humans, just very, very dumb humans.

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