games have taken over a huge part of our life. They are used by people in all
ages for entertainment. However, psychologists have developed an interest in recent
years to investigate whether video games can be used to improve cognitive
abilities. Some researchers have used action video games, and some have
developed special video games that aim to improve cognitive abilities.
Cognitive abilities are skills that require brain processing such as
perception, attention, problem solving, language and visual and spatial
processing. There are various studies on this topic with a variety of findings.
There are studies that found that video games improve cognitive abilities but
there are also some that contradict this and some that produce mixed findings.
The evidence described in this essay favour the idea that video games can
improve cognitive abilities but there are some contradicting it as well.
begin with, Oei A. and Patterson M. (2013) studied
different kinds of video games and their effect on cognitive skills. They used
five groups of non-gamers and the games included action and non-action. They
focused on attention, spatial, visual memory and cognitive control.
Participants played a video game for 20 hours over the course of 4 weeks. After
participants performed behavioural tasks they found that action video improved
cognitive control and non-action video games improved visual search performance
and spatial working memory. Although, the skills learned on the video games
were similar to the skills needed to complete the behavioural tasks. This means
that video games improved cognitive abilities because the skills were
transferable. This study shows that with a few hours of playing video games cognitive
skills can improve. The findings show implications for education; students can
improve their cognitive skills through video games.
there are medical implications from video games research. Li R., Ngo C., Nguyen J. and Levi D.
(2011) found that video games can improve visual acuity in people with
amblyopia. Amblyopia is a vision disorder in which one eye does not work
properly. Participants were assigned to one of the following groups; the action
video game group, the non-action video game group and the control group. They
had to play the game they were assigned to for 40-80 hours using the amblyopic
eye only. They found that action and non-action video games improved the
amblyopic eye on visual acuity, positional acuity, spatial attention and
stereopsis. This implies that video game training can be used to improve visual
function in amblyopic patients. However, before video game training can be used
as a form of treatment, further research is needed as this study had some
methodological flaws such as a small sample (20) and random allocation as 10
participants were in the action video game group. Also, only 3 in the
non-action video game group. A more representative sample needs to be used to
give more support to video games being used as treatment. Overall this study
shows that video game training can improve cognitive abilities.
study that investigated visual skills is by Green C. and Bavelier D. (2006).
Using the flanker compatibility effect, they measured visuospatial attention in
the centre and peripheral part of the brain between gamers and non-gamers. They
found that gamers had improvements in visual attention on both parts of the
brain compared to non-gamers. Using a target localization task, they found that
gaming improves the spatial distribution of visual attention. This shows that
action video games enhance visuospatial attention, giving further support to
the findings of the study by Li R.
et al (2011). Although there are still points to consider such as
whether better performance on a task shows improved visual attention. Gamers
are obviously going to perform better as they are used to these kinds of tasks
whereas non-gamers are not usually faced with such tasks. This brings up the
question if the findings have internal validity and can be generalised to wider
upon these issues, Baniqued P., Kranz M., Voss M., Lee H., Cosman J., Severson
J. and Kramer A. (2014) found mixed findings on the effects of casual video
games on various cognitive skills including reasoning, working memory and
attention. Casual video games are games that do not require a lot of thinking
and have simple rules. They used 209 young adults (this is quite a big sample)
which were randomly allocated to a working memory group or an adaptive working
memory group or an active control group or a passive control group. The working
memory and the adaptive working memory group trained on games that were
associated with reasoning. They found improved attention in the working memory
group and less attentional blink but no improvement in reasoning, working
memory or episodic memory. This shows that casual video games can improve
trained cognitive skills mainly related to attention but fail to improve other
untrained skills. Also, this study brings to light a possible new link between
working memory and video game training. The working memory group showed
improvements in cognition which may imply that working memory is activated
during video game play. Thus, this study supports and contradicts the idea that
video games can improve cognitive skills.
Murphy, K., and Spencer, A. (2009) investigated video game players and
non-video game players on temporal attention, spatial distribution of
attention, attentional capacity and attentional processing ability. Sixty-five
males completed various tasks to test the cognitive abilities just mentioned.
Video game players performed better than non-video game players only in
temporal attention related tasks. No other difference was shown in visual
attention between the two groups which implies that video games play a limited
role in improving cognitive skills related to attention. However, this study is
androcentric (only male participants) which means the findings cannot be
generalised to women. So even though the findings contradict the idea that
video games improve cognitive abilities, the study lacks population validity
and thus more research needs to be done to support the limited role of video
games in cognitive skills.
important issue to be considered with such research is individual differences.
People react differently to video games and the effect they have on them
varies. For example, some people may benefit from video games, because they
like playing them and they believe they can benefit from them. Also, training
on video games is visual and auditory learning which may not be suitable for
everybody. Some people prefer linguistic learning which means training on video
games would not benefit them. People think differently and learn differently,
which is an issue that researchers should consider when conducting video games
training on video games does improve cognitive abilities but mostly attention
related abilities. There is a lot of research on this idea, but more research
needs to be done to extend the findings of previous studies. Such research can
lead to education and medical implications which can benefit society.