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Gamification of an n-back working memory task – Is it worth the effort? An EEG and eye-tracking study

Scharinger, Christian; Prislan, Laura; Bernecker, Katharina; Ninaus, Manuel (2023). Gamification of an n-back working memory task – Is it worth the effort? An EEG and eye-tracking study. Biological Psychology, 179, p. 108545. 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2023.108545

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Gamification of cognitive tasks might positively affect emotional-motivational factors (emotional design perspective) or negatively affect cognitive factors like working memory load (minimalistic design perspective). The current study examined the effects of gamification in a spatial n-back working memory task on task performance, task load (i.e., working memory load and effort), and subjective task experience. Task load was assessed by the physiological process measures pupil dilation and EEG theta (4–6 Hz) and alpha (8–13 Hz) frequency band power. Gamification was achieved by elements of emotional design (i.e., the visual screen design using, e.g., color, cartoon figures as n-back stimuli, and a narrative embedding of the task). While EEG and eye-tracking were recorded, participants conducted gamified and non-gamified 1-back and 2-back load levels. The gamification resulted in positive effects on subjective task experience and affect. Despite these effects, gamification did not affect task performance and task load. However, exploratory analyses revealed increased EEG theta power at right-parietal electrodes for gamified task versions compared to non-gamified ones. Potentially, this effect might indicate participants' increased effort or concentration in the gamified n-back task. In line with an emotional design perspective, gamification positively altered subjective task experience and affect without hampering task performance and therefore justify the extra effort of implementing game elements.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

PHBern Contributor:

Bernecker, K.






Jessica Brunner

Date Deposited:

12 Feb 2024 10:03

Last Modified:

14 Feb 2024 10:27

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

n-back task, gamification, EEG frequency band power, pupil dilation, eye-tracking




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