Measuring Cognitive Abilities in the Wild: Validating a Population-Scale Game-Based Cognitive Assessment

Mads Kock Pedersen, Carlos Mauricio Castaño Díaz, Qian Janice Wang, Mario Alejandro Alba-Marrugo, Ali Amidi, Rajiv Vaid Basaiawmoit, Carsten Bergenholtz, Morten H. Christiansen, Miroslav Gajdacz, Ralph Hertwig, Byurakn Ishkhanyan, Kim Klyver, Nicolai Ladegaard, Kim Mathiasen, Christine Parsons, Janet Rafner, Anders Ryom Villadsen, Mikkel Wallentin, Blanka Zana, Jacob Friis Sherson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Rapid individual cognitive phenotyping holds the potential to revolutionize domains as wide-ranging as personalized learning, employment practices, and precision psychiatry. Going beyond limitations imposed by traditional lab-based experiments, new efforts have been underway toward greater ecological validity and participant diversity to capture the full range of individual differences in cognitive abilities and behaviors across the general population. Building on this, we developed Skill Lab, a novel game-based tool that simultaneously assesses a broad suite of cognitive abilities while providing an engaging narrative. Skill Lab consists of six mini-games as well as 14 established cognitive ability tasks. Using a popular citizen science platform (N = 10,725), we conducted a comprehensive validation in the wild of a game-based cognitive assessment suite. Based on the game and validation task data, we constructed reliable models to simultaneously predict eight cognitive abilities based on the users’ in-game behavior. Follow-up validation tests revealed that the models can discriminate nuances contained within each separate cognitive ability as well as capture a shared main factor of generalized cognitive ability. Our game-based measures are five times faster to complete than the equivalent task-based measures and replicate previous findings on the decline of certain cognitive abilities with age in our large cross-sectional population sample (N = 6369). Taken together, our results demonstrate the feasibility of rapid in-the-wild systematic assessment of cognitive abilities as a promising first step toward population-scale benchmarking and individualized mental health diagnostics.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13308
JournalCognitive Science
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Cognitive abilities
  • Gamification
  • Stealth assessment
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Big data


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