Intercultural Negotiation with Virtual Humans: The Effect of Social Goals on Gameplay and Learning
One innovative use of digital games is to facilitate learning skills with social components by simulating human behavior with virtual humans. We investigate learners’ social goals to understand how they help learners learn intercultural skills from virtual humans in BiLAT, a virtual world that teaches cross-cultural negotiation. We hypothesize that students learn more when they approach the simulation as a social interaction rather than taking a trial-and-error approach perhaps characteristic of video gaming. In a randomized controlled experiment with 59 participants, we found that participants improved cross-cultural negotiation skills through game play. Our hypothesis that participants given an explicit social goal would learn more than those given task-related goals was not confirmed. We did, however, find a positive relation between students’ self-reported social goals, regardless of condition, and their learning results. This relation was confirmed through analysis of log data. Although it is still an open question how best to promote students’ approaching a simulation with a social orientation, the results underline the importance of such goals.