Studies showing the positive effects of video games might give college students a research-based excuse for why, exactly, they eschewed homework for “Call of Duty.”
Papers published by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York and North Carolina State University (NCSU) document a laundry list of cognitive improvements linked to consistent video-game playing.
After a few dozen test subjects between the ages of 18 and 25 played fast-paced video games and slow-paced games, researchers saw participants from the former group improve their ability to collect auditory and visual information when compared to those who played slower video games like Sim City.
Those who played the action-packed fast-paced games like the popular “Call of Duty” answered a series of questions about 25 percent faster than their counterparts, according to the Rochester researchers.
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Daphne Bavelier, a coauthor of the video game study published in the journal Current Biology, said students who played video games consistently bolster their decision making processes because, while playing the games, they constantly calculate to determine their next move.
“It’s not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster,” Bavelier said. “Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.”
Participants in the Rochester research were asked to track a series of dots across a screen—many moving in opposite directions—and determine whether the group of dots was migrating left or right.
“Decisions are never black and white,” she said. “The brain is always computing probabilities. As you drive, for instance, you may see a movement on your right, estimate whether you are on a collision course, and based on that probability make a binary decision: brake or don’t brake.”
The Rochester study also showed that increased video game playing improved participants’ eyesight, because hours looking at a constantly changing screen makes players more sensitive to various shades of color.
Eighty-two percent of video game players in the US are 18 or older, with 37 the average age of an American gamer, according to the Entertainment Software Association’s 2011 statistics. About three in 10 video game players are over 50 years old.
College students don’t have the market cornered on using video games as brain boosters.