As part of the Late at the Tate project on the theme of Production, we wanted to understand more about the production of thought using a video game we developed called “The mental arm-wrestle.” The game uses an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain.

The mental arm wrestle is simple. Rather than using muscles, the game uses the player’s power of concentration. Two players are asked to focus on something, a mathematical puzzle, capitals of the world, meditation or whatever they think will raise their level of concentration. Whoever has a higher level of concentration wins.

We showcased the game at the Tate which and got each contestant to write down what they were thinking about and created a league table where winners and losers would write down their thoughts. We had over 100 responses, here are some of them:

Winners’ thoughts:

“Clean sweep”

“How bad my hearing is”

“Thinking about being in a headstand”

“That I was losing”

“The Eiffel Tower topology”

Losers’ thoughts:


“The alphabet”

“Focussing badly on falcons”

“Childhood, grandma, too many things, that’s why I lost”

The game also gave us something that we didn’t initially expect – access into other people’s thoughts. The participants were not only keen to share their thoughts, but were also huddled around the leader board to see what others were thinking about or perhaps what a winning thought looked like.


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