The Impact of Spatial Involvement on Training Mental Rotation with Minecraft

During my undergraduate career at Drexel University, I decided to embark on an incredible journey into the world of academia. I completed a thesis for my Masters of Science in Digital Media examining how aspects of gaming can have an effect on us in the real world.


Previous research on understanding the effects of computer gameplay showed a shift from negative behavioral consequences to positive cognitive development across multiple age groups. A positive correlation exists between spatial skills and indications of success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Game-based regimens explored training cognition and focus on spatial abilities as many post-secondary students with poor spatial skills can be place at a disadvantage in introductory courses. While the results of game-based studies suggested the potential of games, there were limitations to the studies conducted. Research examining effects from gameplay often compared across different genres, levels of graphical fidelity, input methods, and other variables. Which aspects of gameplay have an impact on the positive consequences is an open question. We focused on the role of spatial involvement, expressed as different control schemes, and its impact on training mental rotation by implementing a training regimen through Minecraft. Our project utilized Minecraft and its modification capabilities to recreate a proven engaging experience for players, making training mental rotation more accessible. We varied the different levels of spatial involvement in our interventions—full control Minecraft, partial control Minecraft, and a control condition—and designed an experiment to compare the effect of the experience’s impact. Further, our work extended game training endeavors in psychology using digital media. A target outcome was a method to improve our understanding of what aspects of digital games are relevant for successful training applications. Results of a pilot study demonstrated the viability of the approach for relating spatial involvement, the sense of inhabiting the virtual space, to training effect in mental rotation and wider spatial skills. Additionally, the developed game-based training regimen is more accessible as there is a lower skill floor than games that have previously been shown to improve cognition.

Interested in learning more? 

You can read my thesis in its entirety in several locations!

Drexel University e-Repositories             ACM Digital Library