Computer Games Increase Cognitive Ability

video games

Playing a video game increases cognitive performance, this increase is similar with a non violent and a violent video game. The cognitive ability increase was similar for both types of video games, which suggests that content does not seem to affect the overall cognitive outcomes of video game play.

Participants were randomly assigned to three groups: the control group (n = 54), the non-violent video game experimental group (n = 27), and the violent video game experimental group (n = 32).
Participants in the non-violent experimental condition played one session of marked numbers for four minutes, the tile game for ten minutes, and the marked numbers game again for four minutes. Participants in the violent experimental condition played Red Alert 2 for 18 min. Finally, participants in the control condition used the Internet to search for information relating to air traffic controllers for 18 min.

In contrast to earlier research this study addressed some of the problems in the past literature. First, the participants had to perform the outcome test four times. This was studied in a pilot in which the researchers determined how many trials were needed to reach asymptote on the criterion measure used in the randomized trial. This way it was ensured that any observed change in scores of this measure were not based on a practice effect.

Second, they did not specifically sample video game players. Thus, the generalization of the findings can be applicable to more than just game players.

What kind of cognitive performance was tested?

  • Working memory
  • A task of adding three numbers, e.g., to add 482 to 123, or 193 to 12.
  • An auditory perception task. Participants heard a series of high and low pitched tones over headphones. Participants’ task was to click a button on the screen which signifies that they heard the high tone but were to ignore the low tones
  • A selective attention task

The participants playing video games showed increased cognitive performance compared to the control group. This increase is similar with a non violent and a violent video game.

Other cognitive tasks shown to improve with video games in other research

  • Visualization refers to the ability to mentally manipulate visual patterns. For instance the ability to visualize a 3-D object from a 2-D object improves with practice with video games.
  • Selective attention is the ability to focus on relevant information that is pertinent to the task, while filtering out or irrelevant information
  • Scanning is defined as repetitive sequences of fixations and saccades that occur upon re-exposure to a visual stimulus, facilitating recognition of that stimulus
  • tracking in the computer game literature is viewed as a dual process consisting of hand tracking (using the keyboard/controller) and visual tracking (attending to objects on the screen).

Warning Dr Shock is biased when it concerns scientific literature on video games
C BARLETT, C VOWELS, J SHANTEAU, J CROW, T MILLER (2008). The effect of violent and non-violent computer games on cognitive performance Computers in Human Behavior DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2008.07.008