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Oct 30 / Cristy Danford

Can a Video Game help reduce biases in information?

Written by Kristina Olsen

Biases can be found in many areas and can exist throughout any decision-making process. To illustrate, Nick Diakopoulos (2012) states, “Any decision process, whether human or algorithm, about what to include, exclude, or emphasize […] has the potential to introduce bias.” Attempts have been made to prevent biases by way of information policies and codes of ethics. For instance, the American Library Association Code of Ethics states, “We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies, equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests” (Code of Ethics, 2006). Although, this is only a recommendation and guide to making ethical decisions, not a mandate (Morrisey, 2008). Even so, well-developed information policies cannot prevent biases.

How does one respond to the material requests from the noisiest patron when it may not reflect the collection development policy; or, how does one respond to a donor’s specific request with his or her gift? What about “when advocacy in collection development trumps neutrality” (Morrisey 2008)?

Morrisey (2008) lists several obvious, but important ways to combat biases, and to include them into his or her library’s information policies. The collections manager should not be the sole selector of material; another staff or faculty member should be available as well. One should consider who is giving the gift and what implications may arise if accepted. For example, a faculty member may donate an old journal to his or her affiliated academic library. This journal may come with a policy that does not allow it to be given away after a specific date or it may have missing volumes (Morrisey, 2008).

However, when it comes to electronic access and the Internet, how do information professionals decide in choosing what electronic journals to offer its patrons and how they are accessed? By limiting access, this produces biases within the information that information professionals provide to users.

Can having an information policy reduce biases in information?

Recently, researchers at the University of Oklahoma produced a video game to help individuals detect and prevent biases in his or her decision-making. According to Norah Dunbar, a professor in the University of Oklahoma’s communication department, the game was created for the intelligence community, funded by a grant from Intelligence Advances Research Projects Activity (Allen, 2013). “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” (Allen, 2013). Once the game was completed, the team conducted a study. The testers had a group of students play the game and another group of students watch a video about cognitive biases (Allen, 2013). They found that the group who had played the game recalled more information than the group who watched the video (Allen, 2013).

Despite the game being designed for intelligence analysts, would this be a good stepping stone in educating information professionals in recognizing biases and preventing them? Will this reduce bias in information?



Allen, S. (2013). University of Oklahoma researchers develop video game to test for biases. Retrieved from

Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. (2006). American Library Association. Retrieved October 27, 2013, from

Diakopoulos, N. (2012, December 10). Understanding bias in computational news media. Nieman Journalism Lab. Retrieved from

Morrisey, L. J. (2008). Ethical issues in collection development. Journal Of Library Administration, 47(3/4), 163-171.


One Comment

  1. Adam DeWitt / Nov 1 2013

    You make an interesting point in saying that we cannot prevent bias. I believe Diakopoulos is correct in saying that every decision is influenced by biases. I thoroughly enjoyed your example from collections development. At one college library I visited, the academic liaisons work alongside professors when ordering new materials. In the library I worked at in college, all book donators must relinquish all authority in deciding what happens to a book–including whether or not it is introduced into the collection. Policies like these truly help to reduce bias’ influence in collection development. I am glad you included that fact.

    I think the video game study is interesting. I believe those who played the video game remembered more than those who watched the video. Most people are action-oriented learners, rather than auditory or visual. In other words, most people learn best through hands-on experience. I am interested in the decision-making aspect of the study. How were decisions influenced by biases?

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