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. identicon
    Emil Ole William Kirkegaard, 23 Jun 2013 @ 10:49pm

    IQ denialism

    I didn't know the IQ denialism would spring up here. Since I'm an expert in the field, I will supply some basic references for the deniers and everybody else curious. It is a very important field to understand, as intelligence is very important in our society, and becoming increasingly more important, thus making it increasingly more important to understand it, and its implications.

    "But IQ is a load of tosh anyway. Depending on which set of tests you try you get staggeringly different results."

    No. All IQ tests and all other mental tests measure the same thing (g-factor = general intelligence) but to different degrees (their g-loadedness). All mental tests correlate positively.

    "All IQ tests show is that you can do an IQ test, nothing to do with "intelligence"."

    A claimed lack of validity (inability to predict other things; only being about 'test smartness' etc.). Flatly contradicted by the evidence. IQ scores (g-factor even better) is the best predictor for many areas of life, most importantly education level.

    " The vast majority of IQ questions rely on pattern recognition questions."

    This is probably true, that's because pattern recognition ability is very closely related to intelligence.

    " Personal example my uncle has an incredibly high IQ (measured by MENSA), but has been known on occasions to call an electrician to his house when a light-bulb has blown, not what I would call smart"

    Anecdotes are not important.

    "How higher IQ correlates to great peripheral view and time reactions to visual stimuli?

    I do remember a study showing that medical students that were gamers were more proficient at operating surgical robots and instruments than their non gamer counterparts.

    So forgive me for being a bit skeptical about the assumption that IQ relates to physical time responses to visual input."

    It is well known among experts and very well replicated. See Arthur Jensen's Clocking the mind. os.org_.pdf

    " You should be. No specific study was cited, so we don't know what it really said. Sound bite summaries like "Higher IQ is correlated with better reaction times" are usually misleading to the point of just being lies."

    No 'sound bite', it is a empirically very well replicated finding. See above reference.

    " Also, it is well established that there are several different kinds of intelligence which are independent of each other. There is a longstanding, ongoing debate about how many kinds there are, but no debate that there's a multiplicity."

    Nothing could be further form the truth. There is about zero research going into multiple intelligence 'theories'. And when actually tested, they are not independent of each other.

    See and

    "One of those kinds of "physical intelligence." Athletes are typically strong in this, and it covers the ability to use your body effectively. Reaction time may very well be correlated with this. I don't remember seeing any correlation between reaction time and the (worthless) measure of general IQ."

    There is no such thing as "physical intelligence", and no standard tests to measure this.

    For someone so dismissive of IQ testing, one would have assumed that you had at least read Wikipedia! Alas, this is clearly not the case.

    For those claims I made above without citing specific literature, consult any textbook on the topic, or other introductory reading. Here are some: edson/reprints/2002notamystery.pdf e-science-of-mental-ability-Arthur-R.-Jensen.pdf 2937846-The-g-Factor-General-Intelligence-and-Its-Implications-Chris-Brand-Race-Difference-IQ-School -Grades-Exam-Results-Educational-Achievement-Alex-Jon.pdf

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