Good news for video gamers worldwide; study shows that ‘playing action video games improves not just the skills taught in the game, but learning capabilities more generally.’
Daphne Bavelier, a research professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester and her team have conducted another study on action video games and their effects. In their first attempt to understand players, they found that action games excel at many tasks. Now, however, they have pinpointed that games do, indeed, better at tasks but that is mostly due to the fact that they are better learners. And they become better learners by playing fast-paced action games.
They first used a pattern discrimination task to compare action video game players’ visual performance with that of individuals who do not play action video games.
The action-gamers outperformed the non-action gamers. The key to the action-gamers success, the researchers found, was that their brains used a better template for the task at hand.
Then, the team conducted another experiment to determine if habitual players of fast-paced, action-rich video games may be endowed with better templates independently of their game play, or if the action game play lead them to have better templates.
Individuals with little video game experience were recruited, and as part of the experiment, they were asked to play video games for 50 hours over the course of nine weeks. One group played action video games, e.g., Call of Duty. The second group played 50 hours of non-action video games, such as The Sims.
The trainees were tested on a pattern discrimination task before and after the video game “training.” The test showed that the action video games players improved their templates, compared to the control group who played the non-action video games. The authors then turned to neural modeling to investigate how action video games may foster better templates.
When the researchers gave action gamers a perceptual learning task, the team found that the action video game players were able to build and fine tune templates quicker than non-action game control participants. And they did so on the fly as they engaged in the task.
According to Bavelier, our brains are capable of constantly trying to predict what will happen next – whether while driving, performing tasks, talking on the phone or listening to a conversation. “In order to sharpen its prediction skills, our brains constantly build models, or ‘templates,’ of the world. The better the template, the better the performance. And now we know playing action video game actually fosters better templates”, she explains.
The researchers have found that playing action video games boosts players’ performance abilities process which is also a lasting effect. When they they re-tested games abilities a few months later, the action-trained participants still outperformed the other participants.
“Games other than action video games may be able to have the same effect. They may need to be fast paced, and require the player to divide his or her attention, and make predictions at different time scales,” she explains.