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Teaching a computer to play concentration advances security, understanding of the mind

Posted on July 2, 2013
The computer interface of “Concentration” that human players saw.

The computer interface of “Concentration” that human players saw.

Computer science researchers have programmed a computer to play the game Concentration (also known as Memory). The work could help improve computer security – and improve our understanding of how the human mind works.

The researchers developed a program to get the software system called ACT-R, a computer simulation that attempts to replicate human thought processes, to play Concentration. In the game, multiple matching pairs of cards are placed face down in a random order, and players are asked to flip over two cards, one at a time, to find the matching pairs. If a player flips over two cards that do not match, the cards are placed back face down. The player succeeds by remembering where the matching cards are located.

The researchers were able to either rush ACT-R’s decision-making, which led it to play more quickly but make more mistakes, or allow ACT-R to take its time, which led to longer games with fewer mistakes.

As part of the study, 179 human participants played Concentration 20 times each – 10 times for accuracy and 10 times for speed – to give the researchers a point of comparison for their ACT-R model.

The findings will help the researchers distinguish between human players and automated “bots,” ultimately helping them develop models to identify bots in a variety of applications. These bots pose security problems for online games, online voting and other Web applications.

Read more at: Phys.org

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