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Study argues that some games improve cognitive functioning

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More Halo, less Brain Training

Usually when science and video games meet, it’s to do the billionth study on whether or not they cause violence. Every time, a lot of money is spent to find out that no, video games probably don’t cause violence, and then six months later a different team comes along and does the same thing.

For once, it’s nice to see a study challenge the age old “video games rot your brain!” argument instead. A study has found that not only do games not rot your brain, but some games do the exact opposite and improve cognitive functioning. The study was published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal (and the full text of it can be seen here).

It’s not quite as clear-cut as a blanket statement like “games improve brain functioning”. Only specific types of games have any observed benefits. Fortunately those games are often the most popular ones, with action games being singled out as having plenty of positive effects on: perceptual skills, attention skills and effects on higher cognitive functions.

It’s probably worth pointing out when the study discusses “attention,” they mean the ability to filter out non-important information, rather than the ability to focus on one task for a long period. That skill is one of the few skills that was listed as maybe being more negatively impacted by games.

Other types of games have shown different types of improvements, to varying degrees. StarCraft II, for example, may not improve attention of short-term memory, but may improve cognitive flexibility, while Portal 2 improves problem solving and spatial reasoning skills.

Interestingly, the study calls out games like Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training and other “brain games” as not having any benefit. In fact, the study argues that the addition of more gamified elements to otherwise normal cognitive tasks in games like Brain Training actually reduces the effect they have.

The study then goes in-depth as to how these findings should impact things like government legislation and the advertising of games like Brain Training that claim to improve brain functioning. It’s one of the more readable studies I’ve come across, so it’s worth reading through it if you’re at all interested.

So, in essence: Dr. Kawashima: How Old is your Brain Because The Zombies That Are Coming Only Eat Old Ones should come out sometime in 2017 if we’re lucky.

The Impacts of Video Games on Cognition (and How the Government Can Guide the Industry) [SageJournals]

Usually when science and videogames meet, it’s to do the billionth study on whether they cause violence. Every time, a lot of money is spent to find out that no: videogames probably don’t cause violence, and then six months later a different team comes along and does the same thing.

So for once, it’s nice to see a study challenge the age old “videogames rot your brain!” argument instead. A study has found that not only do games not rot your brain, but some games do the exact opposite and improve cognitive functioning. The study was published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal (and the full text of it can be seen here).

It’s not quite as clear-cut as “games improve brain functioning”, with only specific types of games having any benefit. Fortunately those games are often the most popular ones, with action games being singled out as having plenty of positive effects on: perceptual skills, attention skills and effects on higher cognitive functions. It’s probably worth pointing out when the study discusses “attention”, they mean the ability to filtre out non-important information, rather than the ability to focus on one task for a long period. That skill is one of the few skills that was listed as maybe being more negatively impacted by games.

Other types of games have shown different types of improvements, to varying degrees. Starcraft 2, for example, may not improve attention of short-term memory, but may improve cognitive flexibility, while Portal 2 improves problem solving and spatial reasoning skills.

Interestingly, the study calls out games like Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training and other “brain games” as not having any benefit. In fact, the study argues that the addition of more gamified elements to otherwise normal cognitive tasks in games like Brain Training actually reduces the effect they have.

The study then goes in-depth as to how these findings should impact things like government legislation and the advertising of games like Brain Training that claim to improve brain functioning. It’s one of the more readable studies I’ve come across, so it’s worth reading through it if you’re at all interested.

So, in essence: Dr. Kawashima: How Old is your Brain Because The Zombies That Are Coming Only Eat Old Ones should come out sometime in 2017 if we’re lucky.

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Joe Parlock
Joe ParlockFormer Hardware Editor   gamer profile

Destructoid's former Hardware Editor. Has a, quite frankly, disturbingly large collection of Monsters Inc. merchandise that nobody ever seems to ask him about. Still, he's mostly harmless. --- ... more + disclosures


 


 



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