Study: Gamers Better, Faster At Interpreting Visual Input

from the look-over-there! dept

As someone who considers video games my primary source of entertainment media, I'm among a group that tends to cringe whenever I hear about the next study done concerning video games. Whether it's agenda-driven crackpots claiming a link to violence, despite many other studies showing the opposite, or even positive studies on games and children that you just know will produce a backlash, these things tend to get people riled up. So it's somewhat nice to see a study that doesn't take on the more ideological positions normally discussed, but instead just looks at one positive effect gamers experience.

I'm talking about a recent study out of Duke that suggests gamers simply see the world differently, or at least get more out of visual perception than those who don't play games.

"Gamers see the world differently," said Greg Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine. "They are able to extract more information from a visual scene."

Each participant was run though a visual sensory 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.
This seems to jive nicely with common sense. Video games are visual medium that specifically tasks players to read what they see and react accordingly. Still, with all the talk you tend to hear about how the youth of the world is turning into a zombie army of button mashers, it might be easy to lose perspective on all the effects, particularly those that are positive. What the study essentially is saying is that gamers tend to be more observant and better able to make quick decisions based on what they see than non-gamers. There is, quite obviously, a host of real-world arenas where this kind of skill is valuable.

More interestingly, this isn't simply a function of memory retention. The brain of the gamer is truly trained specifically to see more, not remember more, and to exact a proper decision for what is around them. The authors of the study are planning on following this up with a look into brain-scans and MRIs, so perhaps we'll learn even more about how and why gamers see the world differently.

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Filed Under: perception, studies, video games, visual input

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    horse with no name, 21 Jun 2013 @ 12:53am

    Re: A word of caution.

    Good conclusion to the story, actually. Short term stutter reactions may in fact change the way that the gamer handles input, with responses crafted to be more of the "do something" variety rather than "best response". It may remove some of the processing for things such as right / wrong in the moral or ethical sense from the discussion, as the responses come faster than that processing would allow.

    I don't think of it any different from a football goalie who seems to have the ability to dive the right way on a penalty shot or from a deflected ball, without having to process all that is involved. It doesn't make them particularly any smarter, just that they have a small subset of skills fine tuned and honed for a single purpose.

    The number of real world applications for a fast thumb isn't very high, but I guess a gamer would think otherwise.

    PS: Sorry if this post appears far out of sync with the discussion. Techdirt has chosen to censor my posting by forcing every post into moderation. You guys should consider that to be a warning, don't disagree with the man, he will censor you.

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