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Why Neuroscience Games?

Knack Games
Neuroscience Games

At Knack, we love to connect people with opportunity. Neuroscience games are the heart of Knack’s data-driven platform for self-knowledge and talent discovery. There are many core technologies we could use, so why did we choose mobile games? How are they effective for measuring traits and abilities?

Why Neuroscience Games?

First, people like to play games. More than half of people in the US play games on mobile devices. Games are less threatening than explicit tests, such as the SAT or a company’s assessment, while being far more engaging than old-fashioned paper questionnaires and most computerized tasks.

Second, playing a game frees people to be their best selves. Games are not merely fun, but they can induce a sense of being “in the zone” or “flow”: a psychological absorption in the activity, with self-consciousness receding into the background. For this reason, games can also reduce stereotype threat and other forms of anxiety about being evaluated.

Third, games reduce the opportunity to present an overly positive image, because it is difficult to project a desired image while also immersed in the details of playing a game.

Knack’s games are designed not just for play, but for a purpose. They are engineered to be rigorous measurements of diverse skills that are used for personal enrichment and organizational success.

Neuroscience games provide robust data

Knack’s ability to measure diverse traits is rooted in the data-stream from each game — the nuances of how someone engages in a situation. A player’s micro-behaviors are all logged in detail: the position and timing of taps on the game screen in relation to the game action: detailed snapshots of how a person explores, thinks, reacts, and plans their way through a complex activity in real-time.

From such raw data, our automated analysis distills within-game markers of different behaviors, e.g., how efficiently the player processes information in the context of the game, such as how they attend to and use facial expressions of emotion. By selecting and combining specific behavioral markers, we build and validate predictive models of psychological traits. From there, we can predict real-world outcomes for individual game players, such as job performance or cultural fit within a given company.

Another advantage of games is their information density: short game sessions can replace tedious traditional measures that sometimes take hours to complete.

Games are objective. Our automated analysis can greatly reduce unintentional bias during hiring or other interviews, allowing for more accurate signals and a better matching of people to opportunity. The analysis pipeline is actively managed to ensure that bias does not compromise the signals we identify.


Knack’s games are downloaded for free and played on mobile devices worldwide. The SAT and many other assessments are pay-to-play, limiting the potential for self-discovery. Games not only level the economic playing field, they also expand that field by removing geographical and social barriers to participation.

With traditional approaches to recruiting talent, opportunity is more circumscribed, and biased toward those with better personal connections or the “right” background or credentials. By leveraging mobile devices, Knack can help connect people with opportunities across the world.

Do people with prior gaming and digital technology experience have an unfair advantage? Knack takes steps to counter “gamer-bias.” Our games are targeted to the casual game market, not “hardcore” gamers, and the validation populations (who we use in internal product research and development) deliberately samples a large range of gaming experience. Our trait models are developed to work for all adults, regardless of their previous experience. What matters isn’t someone’s final “score” on the game, but the nuances of their play.

Why mobile neuroscience games? Because they are fun, data-rich, and accessible.

About the author:

Jeremy R. Gray, Ph.D. is the VP of Research and Development at Knack

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