Course Syllabus

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2022 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Psychology, Human Development, Neuroscience



Faculty Members:

Joshua Juvrud  

Program Contact:

Tina Mangieri 

Academic Support: 

Time & Place:


Research Project Description

A central component to understanding human behavior is examining how individuals and game players approach solving any given problem. Whether it is a player solving a puzzle in a game, or a game designed to educate and train skills, problem solving is a fundamental process underlying much of human behavior. Cognitive psychology understands the process of problem solving as transforming an object, idea or situation in a novel way, and uses both imagination, prior knowledge, and the practical ability to explore the environment to discover possible changes. Problem solving is an essential skill that involves an iterative processes of imagining and evaluating actions and outcomes to then determine whether they would produce an improved state (Newell & Simon, 1972). Understanding how individuals approach problem solving is essential not only in game design and game research, but cognitive psychology, political science, business management, economics, computer science, engineering, environmental science, and many other fields.

A study published in 2021 in Nature (Adams, Converse, Hales & Klotz, 2021) revealed that adults have a strong bias for problem solving strategies that use an additive transformation strategy, even when such a strategy was less efficient and more cognitively taxing. Across eight separate experiments, the researchers found that whether the adults were tasked with problem solving for a sustainable resource challenge, engineering a building design, or making administrative decisions, transformations that added rather than subtracted were heavily favored. The implication for an additive bias is that these transformations were used even when the cognitive load was much higher and potential shortcomings of an additive versus subtractive strategy were ignored. This means extra costs psychologically (e.g., stress and attention), as well as physical costs (e.g., resources and materials). A bias toward defaulting to additive strategies may be one important reason why people struggle to make efficient decisions related to policy making, institutional management, and the damaging effects on the environment.

However, important questions remain: Are additive transformation biases something that is learned by the time we reach adulthood, and if so, can we train more efficient and productive strategies that use subtractive transformations?

Learning Objectives

The primary objective is for you to experience the world of research and gain skills that will prepare you for any future career you choose to pursue. By the end of the term, you will grasp the complexities of the research project and have made your own contribution to the project. You will have learned to communicate ideas
and findings, both orally and in writing, to colleagues within your particular discipline, as well as peers from other disciplines.

Project-Specific Objectives Include:

  • Learn how to design and create a custom digital environment for digital testing
  • Learn how to recruit and test adult participants
  • Understand research ethics related to the project
  • Understand developmental trajectories and the connections between adult and child psychology
  • Learn how to collect data and analyze data
  • Learn how to write introduction, method, results, and discussion sections in an academic manuscript
  • Understand the importance of digital tools in experimental psychology testing

Research Mentor

Joshua Juvrud
Ph.D. in Psychology (Uppsala University). As a research psychologist, his work has focused on the ways that novel techniques in research (eye-tracking, pupil dilation, virtual reality) can be used to assess how children and adults perceive and interpret people, emotions, and actions. Josh focuses this research in two fields. In developmental psychology at the Child and Babylab in Uppsala, he seeks to understand how children learn about their world and the social cognitive development of face perception and socialization processes such as gender, race, and ethnicity. In games research at the Games & Society Lab at the Department of Game Design in Visby, Gotland, his work examines the psychology of people, their actions, and emotions in game development, player engagement, learning, and immersion to understand better how different game players (with different personalities, traits, and experiences) interact with various game mechanisms and are, in turn, affected by game experiences. With DIS since 2020.

Role & Responsibilities of the Research Assistant

You are expected to spend a minimum of 10 hours per week on the project. The workload
may vary over the semester. If you are travelling to do field research in a different
location, additional time may be required.
As research assistant, you will engage in some or all of the following:
1. Participate in weekly meetings with your research mentor at a time set collectively at
the beginning of the term.
2. Participate in a research orientation at the beginning of the semester 
3. Participate in two research workshops during the semester.
4. Write an assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses in the research
process at the beginning of the semester. Revisit at the end of the semester as part
of an evaluation of your own participation in, and learning from, the research project.
5. Keep a research journal and submit it in person or via email every week (or another
specified interval) to your research mentor, describing the activities of the week, and
outlining goals for the following week.
6. Conduct literature reviews.
7. Participate in carrying out the research project. This may include: familiarizing yourself with core concepts, prototyping, design testing, preliminary user studies. The specific responsibilities may vary depending on how the project progresses. Be prepared to contribute to tasks that may come up during the term. Research processes are not always predictable.
8. Present the relevance of the research and/or findings at the End of Semester Showcase.
9. Make a final oral and/or written presentation of the research you are involved in,
depending on what is agreed with your research mentor.


Adams, G. S., Converse, B. A., Hales, A. H., & Klotz, L. E. (2021). People systematically overlook subtractive changes. Nature, 592(7853), 258-261.
Gopnik, A., Sobel, D. M., Schulz, L. E., & Glymour, C. (2001). Causal learning mechanisms in very young children: two-, three-, and four-year-olds infer causal relations from patterns of variation and covariation. Developmental psychology, 37(5), 620.
Spelke, E. S., & Kinzler, K. D. (2007). Core knowledge. Developmental science, 10(1), 89-96.
Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American psychologist, 69(1), 66.

Other readings will be agreed upon with the Research Mentor at the beginning of the term. The exact content will differ depending on your background. You will receive guidance concerning the basics of relevant concepts, study designs, methods of analysis, etc.

Evaluation and Grading

All research assistants are assessed on their participation in the seminar on responsible research practices, weekly status reports to the research mentor, self-evaluation and presentation to peers from other disciplines.

The format of the evaluation depends on the project phase. It may include presentations on research design and data, keeping a project log book, producing an interview guide, a poster presentation for an expert panel, etc. This will be discussed in more detail at the introductory meeting with the research mentor.

Component Weight
Participation 30 %
Research Project and Paper
50 %
Lab Reports 10 %
Final Oral Presentation
10 %

Research Orientation 
& Workshops  

Days and times are available in the Course Summary, below.

Field Research 

Depending on the phase of the project, you may be involved in data collection, which will involve observations, interviews, and documentary research in Sweden. Expenses related to fieldwork will be covered by a DIS travel grant. The fieldwork will be planned with the research mentor at the beginning of the semester.

Approach to Mentoring

All DIS research mentors have been trained in mentoring students but their approach to mentoring may differ. Mentoring is about engaging at a different - and often deeper -level than what is typical in the class room. However, mentoring also comes with some degree of ambiguity, which is important for you to expect. The research mentor will work closely with you throughout the semester but part of the training is also for you to use your own judgement, to make assessments and decisions. As part of planning your tasks and responsibilities for the semester together, the research mentor will talk to you about her/his approach to mentoring.

Expectations of the Research Assistant 

The specific expectations of the individual research assistant are agreed upon at the beginning of the semester. In general, a research assistant is expected to take initiative, take ownership of the project and work independently. You must also be prepared for meetings and be willing to part take in relevant discussions. In cases where more
research assistants are involved in the same project, you will be expected to engage in some teamwork. Carrying out a research project is not a straightforward and predictable process. This is part of what makes it exciting. It also means that communication is crucial. You are expected to take responsibility for communicating about problems or issues that arise.


Data will be collected in person or online and will consist of self-report data, psychological/cognitive measures, and/or behavioral data. All studies are conducted in accordance with the standards specified in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the local ethics committee.

Disability and Resource Statement  

Any Research Assistant who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact DIS Academics ( to coordinate this. In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the Research Mentor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.

Academic Regulations

Please make sure to read the Academic RegulationsLinks to an external site.Links to an external site. on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 

 DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

Date Details Due