September 15, 2011

BAM BAM! Shooting down video game myths

To my gaming readers: chances are that you aren't a gamer because you want to boost your cognitive abilities.

You have likely, however, been reassured by scientific evidence in the past decade suggesting that video games can do just that.

Unfortunately, according to a paper published this week in Frontiers in Psychology, studies suggesting improved cognitive ability as a result of playing video games are fundamentally flawed.

Researchers Walter Boot and Daniel Blakely, of the psychology department at Florida State University, reviewed past gaming studies and pointed out several cases against them.

• A number of studies suggest enhanced cognitive performance in gamers compared to non-gamers. Boot and his colleagues, however, note that this ability may not be caused by gaming; instead, those individuals who have the ability to be successful gamers may simply be drawn to video games and take up the habit more readily.

• Researchers recruiting gamer and non-gamer participants for studies frequently circulate ads on college campuses looking for "expert gamers." That wording, Boot argues, "lets participants know how researchers expect them to perform on challenging, often game-like computer tests of cognition."

• It is thought that the media reports of the past decade heighten a gamer's awareness to these expectations.

Boot and colleagues do not completely dismiss video games as a way to boost cognitive performance; they are, in fact, still open to the possibility. They argue, however, that more research is needed to recommend video game intervention, particularly for kids and senior citizens, as a means to improve cognition.

In the meantime, I'll just feel better about my inability to play anything more challenging than a NeoPets game and look forward to more evidence that may come out of this research field that certainly wouldn't have been imagined 30 years ago.

Boot WR, Blakely DP and Simons DJ. 2011. Do action video games improve perception and cognition? Front. Psychology 2:226. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00226

David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, Mengju Wu, and David Kurlander. Pers Soc Psychol Bull, November 2011; vol. 37, 11: pp. 1428-1437.

Photo courtesy atriguniblog. Originally reported by Medical Xpress.

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