Royal Society Publishes 12-Year-Old's D&D Experiment

Royal Society Publishes 12-Year-Old's D&D Experiment

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A 12-year-old boy has been credited as the lead author on a Royal Society report that used the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual to examine the mechanism behind the human gaze.

The problem facing University of British Columbia psychologist Alan Kingstone, as he pondered the question of why animals follow the gaze of others, is that everybody's eyes are stuck more or less in the middle of their faces. How can you tell whether primates "possess a distinct neural module that is uniquely tuned for the eyes of others," or if they just naturally look at the center of skulls, when there's no way to separate the two?

Enter his son, 12-year-old Julian Levy, who in the way of children didn't see why it was such a big deal. He suggested that since humans all have their eyes in their faces, the obvious solution would be to study non-humans, specifically the creatures of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. And since it was Levy's idea, Kingstone convinced his teacher to give him time some away from school and then put him to work on the experiment.

Levy had 22 volunteers stare at the corner of a screen, then press a key to bring up one of 36 images from the Monster Manual and let their eyes roam. Recordings of their eye movements made with a special headset camera demonstrated that when volunteers looked at images of humans or humanoid monsters, their eyes moved to the center of the screen and the straight up to the face, but when confronted with images of monsters with "displaced eyes," they stared at the center of the screen and then off in various directions, looking at the eyes "early and frequently, whether they were on the creatures' faces or not."

Kingstone explained that the findings actually have real-world significance because it provides insight into how and when we gain social information from others and may even help to explain why autism sufferers often don't make eye contact during conversations. "If people are just targeting the center of the head, like they target the center of most objects, and getting the eyes for free, that's one thing," he said. "But if they are actually seeking out eyes that's another thing altogether."

Kingston wrote the report "Monsters Are People Too," published in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, in conjunction with post-doctoral student Tom Foulshan of the University of Essex. But because Levy, who's now 14, was the driving force behind the experiment, preparing the images, running the experiment and coding the data, he's cited as the lead author. "Monsters Are People Too" can be read in full at the Royal Society Publishing website.

Source: Discover Magazine

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Not strictly speaking a D&D experiment if it just used artwork from it, but still, fairly accurate for an Escapist news title.

Interesting stuff, and a valid area of research. I'd expect this to be studied further, but not a bad starting point, IMHO.

Andy Chalk:
And since it was Levy's idea, Kingstone convinced his teacher to give him time some away from school and then put him to work on the experiment.

Best dad ever or someone looking for free lab assistant?

Andy Chalk:
looking at the eyes "early and frequently, whether they were on the creatures' faces or not."

Wow. The Beholder must have really caused problems for people, then.

You know what..this... This was actually pretty brilliant

Formica Archonis:
Wow. The Beholder must have really caused problems for people, then.

Hmm .. I seem to recall an image of a creature from the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual; it was an aqua/green-ish blob holding a polearm ... and it had eyes all over it ... ? Formic ... foramaldehyde ... formfitting .. can't remember. I think it was an 'F'. I keep thinking "Feyr" - another critter in the F section with lots of eyes - but they're all in the centre of it's 'head'. The thing I'm trying to think of wasn't a Feyr.

And for all you DMs out there who have a player who says 'Medusae? No problem. I just won't look at their eyes,' you can point out this research and say that they've gotta pass an incredible saving throw vs. death gaze FOR A BLOODY REASON. People are hardwired to seek out the eyes of an entity - it's one of the (many) reasons why the Alien/xenomorph is so damned creepy, and Medusa is such an horrific monster.

uzo:
Hmm .. I seem to recall an image of a creature from the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual; it was an aqua/green-ish blob holding a polearm ... and it had eyes all over it ... ? Formic ...

Hey now.:)

The closest name I can think of is a Formorian but that just looks like an ugly dude. Closest monster? One of the beholder-kin, a Lensman I think. But I don't remember it being covered in eyes.

Other monsters with lots of eyes include one of Vecna's special golems, but that wasn't in the MM.

Sorry, I'm stuck.

Formica Archonis:
*snippy*
Sorry, I'm stuck.

Got it - ARGOS. Dunno where the 'F' thing was coming from.

From the 2nd Ed MM:
"...An argos resembles a giant amoeba. It has one large, central eye with a tripartite pupil, and a hundred lashless, inhuman eyes and many sharp-toothed mouths..."

Best. Dad. Every.

Also thats one quick thinking kid. Props to him

image

uzo:

From the 2nd Ed MM:
"...An argos resembles a giant amoeba. It has one large, central eye with a tripartite pupil, and a hundred lashless, inhuman eyes and many sharp-toothed mouths..."

Oh, yeah, lookit that. I didn't even know those guys existed. The eye on top of the other eye is a nice touch.

... do you hear that?

That was the sound of every desperate and stressed-out graduate student on the planet slamming their heads on their desks after finding out that a 12 year old has a better CV than they do.

In all seriousness, unless this kid completely slacks off in highschool, he's probably a sure-in for pretty much any undergrad anywhere.

A fourteen-year-old now has more publications to his name than me.

I'm not bitter at all.

Good for him.

Formica Archonis:

uzo:

From the 2nd Ed MM:
"...An argos resembles a giant amoeba. It has one large, central eye with a tripartite pupil, and a hundred lashless, inhuman eyes and many sharp-toothed mouths..."

Oh, yeah, lookit that. I didn't even know those guys existed. The eye on top of the other eye is a nice touch.

I find interesting that all your badges right now are eyes in various forms :)

Anyway this is quite impressive. Wish I had a scientific publication to my name at the age of 12 :P

Normally it's the parents helping children with their homework. :D

Children say the darndest things... Well, sometimes you gotta listen to the kids, because they can sometimes come up with things that would never occur to adults. Using D&D monsters for such an experiment? It never would have occurred to me, yet it makes complete sense!

What is that old saying? the most brilliant ideas are often the simplest?

Formica Archonis:

Andy Chalk:
And since it was Levy's idea, Kingstone convinced his teacher to give him time some away from school and then put him to work on the experiment.

Best dad ever or someone looking for free lab assistant?

Andy Chalk:
looking at the eyes "early and frequently, whether they were on the creatures' faces or not."

Wow. The Beholder must have really caused problems for people, then.

You have literally the most adorable avatar ever.

dangoball:
I find interesting that all your badges right now are eyes in various forms :)

A coincidence, I assure you.:) I've had them like this since... last halloween when I finally got the fourth one I needed, I think. (With the occasional switch to something else when I feel a need to remind Susan Arendt I have a badge featuring her husband in drag.;) Fortunately I caught the Beholder one before the fifth-badge redesign! I'd still like to swap him out for something a little more eyeball-only, but he'll do for now.

ProtoChimp:
You have literally the most adorable avatar ever.

Thank you! That's kinda what I was going for when I made it.:)

Formica Archonis:

Andy Chalk:
And since it was Levy's idea, Kingstone convinced his teacher to give him time some away from school and then put him to work on the experiment.

Best dad ever or someone looking for free lab assistant?

Andy Chalk:
looking at the eyes "early and frequently, whether they were on the creatures' faces or not."

Wow. The Beholder must have really caused problems for people, then.

surely that would be the easiest? one eye one point of focus?

The Lugz:
surely that would be the easiest? one eye one point of focus?

And all the little ones....

Formica Archonis:

The Lugz:
surely that would be the easiest? one eye one point of focus?

And all the little ones....

ahh, i just Googled one you're quite right of-course dnd beholders are medusa-like different to the ones i've seen elsewhere such as the magicka / squid type

http://www.magickapedia.net/wiki/File:Malignant_Beholder.png
http://www.turbosquid.com/FullPreview/Index.cfm/ID/526025

The Lugz:

Formica Archonis:

The Lugz:
surely that would be the easiest? one eye one point of focus?

And all the little ones....

ahh, i just Googled one you're quite right of-course dnd beholders are medusa-like different to the ones i've seen elsewhere such as the magicka / squid type

http://www.magickapedia.net/wiki/File:Malignant_Beholder.png
http://www.turbosquid.com/FullPreview/Index.cfm/ID/526025

The magicka one is pretty close actually. Just take the claws and replace them with eyeballs and you have the D&D representation.

imageWhat I think of when I think of a beholder:

Loved that game. Though I prefer the Legend of Darkmoon. Particularly the end boss who dresses almost exactly like Q did in ST:TNG Encounter at Farpoint.

Formica Archonis:

Wow. The Beholder must have really caused problems for people, then.

Puhleeze. Beholder? Try Gibbering beast
image

Hmm, I wounder if the kid and his father took into account that D&D art is professionally designed, and therefor follows all the elements of design, including emphasis. Any art that they use will have a specific focal point that has been designated by the artist by contrast of colour, detail, and darkness; Not to mention directing shapes and lines. Any creature they show will draw the eye to a specific point on the drawing; very commonly the eyes/eye.
Granted they have removed the backgrounds, but the principle applies to the creature by themselves, and I still think there will be a flaw in their test. I don't suppose scientists and 12-year-olds would be likely to know the finer points of design but anytime someones eyes are draw somewhere it won't be because of unaltered human nature.

 

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