Frequent players of video games “see the world differently”
Posted by Dean Holden at August 16th, 2013
by Annie Murphy Paul, 14 June 2013
“College students who were either non-gamers or intensive gamers were given a visual memory task that flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters for just one-tenth of a second. After a delay ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one spot on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were asked to identify which letter had been in that spot. At every time interval, intensive players of action video games outperformed non-gamers in recalling the letter.
‘Gamers see the world differently,’ said Greg Appelbaum, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine. ‘They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.’
Researchers have known from earlier studies that gamers are quicker at responding to visual stimuli and can track more items than non-gamers. When playing a game, especially one of the ‘first-person shooters,’ a gamer makes ‘probabilistic inferences’ about what he’s seeing — good guy or bad guy, moving left or moving right—as rapidly as he can.
Appelbaum said that with time and experience, the gamer apparently gets better at doing this. ‘They need less information to arrive at a probabilistic conclusion, and they do it faster,’ he said.
The visual system screens information out from what the eyes are seeing, and data that isn’t used decays quite rapidly, Appelbaum said. Gamers discard the unused stuff just about as fast as everyone else, but they appear to be starting with more information to begin with.
To investigate this hypothesis, researchers examined three possible reasons for the gamers’ apparently superior ability to make probabilistic inferences. Either they see better, they retain visual memory longer or they’ve improved their decision-making.
Looking at these results, Applebaum said, it appears that prolonged memory retention isn’t the reason.
But the other two factors might both be in play; it is possible that the gamers see more immediately, and they are better able make better correct decisions from the information they have available.”
Interesting. One question, of course, is whether this ability that gamers apparently develop is of use in real-world tasks.
Annie Murphy Paul has a neat website called The Brilliant Blog. Check it out!
<Does video game prowess transfer into a sporting environment? As a junior high / high school kid, I hung out in arcades, playing video games, shooting pool and plating table tennis. Today, kids play lots of video games, but the pool table and table tennis seem to be fading relics of yesteryear, replaced by electronics!
I always felt that by playing lots of arcade video games (starting with Pong!; then more modern ones like Donkey Kong, Defender, PacMan, Galaxian, Centipede, etc. – before the Intellivision, Atari, C64’s came out!) I was a better centreman, winning faceoffs with great regularity. Perhaps these anticipation time / reaction time games were additional ‘off-ice’ practice? Regarding the pool tables (which we also had downstairs our 1970’s rec room!), I was learning the physics of the bank shot and combination shots, not to mention practicing trick shots (creative problem solving, perseverance). Teaching young players today, the majority of them don’t have a clue when it comes to using the boards as an option!I suspect most have never played a game of pool!
We also had table tennis downstairs, and this was a great help in learning eye tracking, reading body language, deception, developing ‘touch’, agility, and accuracy: eye-hand skills that might have translated into Fundamental Movement Skills and Cognitive Strategies that might have transferred into athletic feats. All of this is anecdotal, but I personally believe it helped me; at least that’s what I told my parents when I asked them for some quarters to feed the arcade machines! 😉 – DH>