Action video games increase learning

TO the chagrin of parents everywhere, playing action video games may improve general learning capacity, according to a new study from the University of Rochester in New York.

"Prior research by our group and others has shown that action gamers excel at many tasks. In this new study, we show they excel because they are better learners," says Daphne Bavelier, a research professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

"And they become better learners by playing the fast-paced action games."

Dr. Bavelier and her team worked with 20 paid participants, half of whom were tasked with playing action video games such as "Call of Duty," while the other half played non-action games such as "The Sims."

Gamers played a total of 50 hours over the course of nine weeks.

Participants were recruited for the study on the basis that they were not habitual gamers, to eliminate the possibility that individuals drawn to fast-paced, action-packed games might be endowed with different templates independently of gaming.

"In order to sharpen its prediction skills, our brains constantly build models, or 'templates,' of the world," says Dr. Bavelier.

"The better the template, the better the performance. And now we know playing action video game actually fosters better templates."

The researchers started and finished the experimentation process using a pattern-discrimination task to compare the two groups' visual performance and found the action gamers outperformed their counterparts by the end of the study.

Action gamers, they found upon imposing a perceptual learning task, were able to learn more quickly and fine-tune their learning templates better than their non-action gaming counterparts.

The action gamers still outperformed their counterparts when they were retested one year later.

The researchers told Relaxnews that their work should not be interpreted as a reason to binge on video games and that gamers should be aware that not all games have the same effect.

"We show beneficial effects of playing action video games on vision, attention, and now learning with people playing 5 hours per week distributed throughout the week, for 2 weeks," says co-author Vikranth Rao Bejjanki, a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences for the United States of America. – AFP Relaxnews