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I've been told that roleplaying has been used as a form of psychological evaluation. Although I am not really sold on these things, I do know that a form of roleplaying is performed during some job interviews, and (as a personal experience) during management courses.

Do you have more details on this regard ? Do you know of any psychological analysis which has been conducted by means of traditional (i.e. gaming) roleplaying ?

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5 Answers 5

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No, roleplaying in the psych/business sense doesn't have a "game" component - there's no dice rolling or event resolution besides what the participants talk out. So I've never seen traditional RPGs be used. I have done plenty of the management/business kind and my stepmother is a therapist who owns a multi-person therapy practice that does plenty of roleplay therapy, especially with kids (anxiety disorders benefit most from it). I can't say it's never happened ever, but if it has it's a one in a million.

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There are definitely some studies out there, although not many. Wayne D. Blackmon wrote an article called "Dungeons & Dragons: The Use of a Fantasy Game in the Psychotherapeutic Treatment of a Young Adult" in 1994 (American Journal of Psychotherapy 48:4, pp.624-634). You can use Google Scholar to track forward and see some articles that have cited it.

There are also some studies that focus on developing psychological generalization about role-players, but it sounds like you're thinking more along the lines of Blackmon's article.

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There are several uses for "Role-playing" besides that used in the LARP, table-top and computer games.

In Social Work, Psychology and Psychology, it's done as a guided theraputic technique, with almost no use of props nor of randomization, rulesets, nor even written characters. Usually in the mode of, "Fred, pretend you are Joe. Tell me what you think of Fred." If the responses become in need of adjudication, usually the exercise is usually stopped, or some predetermined outcome is used.

In Education, the term is avoided, but the same technique is often used in enrichment activities, but to explore historical persons rather than persons one is in conflict with. Some simulations are in fact highly structured low-choice RPG's; some even use dice or spinners as randomizers. Mock Trials in civics classes are in fact roleplaying; they are a longstanding tradition in social studies education.

In board games, "Role-playing" means either speaking in character, or playing a single character with some activities resolved by methods that don't involve the main game board. Several games have role-playing as a mode of play, but are clearly not RPG's.

In computer games, it generally means a game with a strong story element, and players controlling one to six individually statted characters, usually acting as a single player; the relation to tabletop RPG's is in mechanics of combat and advancement more than in mode of play. The games sharing the mode of play are called, generally, "interactive fiction" rather than "role-playing"...

In Theater, Improvisational Acting ("Improv") is sometimes termed role-play acting, tho the term is not standard; sometimes, it's done with assigned character aspects. It can be very much like LARP in many cases. The distinctions between improv and LARP, and between improv and diceless games is one of degree and decree... the later meaning that in diceless games and in LARP, there is someone with authority to resolve issues.

I have seen documentation of the use of Role-playing simulation excercises in both Business and Poli-Sci collegiate courses. It often uses random elements. The most common is the stock market investment simulation; the students write their buy/sell orders on day A, and on day B resolve them with A's close prices; they often are allowed to buy/sell in-class, as well.

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I think the digressions into what "roleplaying" means in board games, computers games, and improv detracts from this otherwise great answer, since those don't related to the question. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 21 '10 at 0:54
    
They are directly relevant for showing that the term is not restricted to just the two; an understanding of the term requies understanding it's many facets. And they are in fact all related. –  aramis Oct 22 '10 at 17:48

My main job is a professional roleplayer: that is, I'm an actor, who does the roleplay exercises you talk about for job interviews and training courses.

What happens is: you get a brief, giving you an imaginary business situation. For example, you might be meeting a customer or underperforming employee. I get a brief, telling me how to act in response to what you do.

The exercise is designed to assess various "competencies" specific to the role and the organisation: for example, Leadership, Negotiation, Valuing Diversity. These are specified in detail.

In the training course situation, you'll usually be observed by your peers on the training course and whoever is running the course. We run the exercise and everyone gives feedback.

In the job interview situation, the process is more formal. An assessor sits in the corner of the room, taking notes. Afterwards, they score you on the competencies.

Other than that, I'm not sure what to tell you, but I'm happy to answer questions. It's interesting work. We often get told that roleplaying exercises are the most valuable part of the interview process.

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Anecdotal evidence: With the right group role playing sessions have been quite cathartic. Later analysis of the story elements helped illuminate some of my own hang-ups. So I believe it can be a useful and sometimes therapeutic tool.

I know of no rigorous studies.

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