Playing action video games improves learning, scientists show

Rejoice, teen gamers of the world! You now have a pretty good argument to help convince your parents to let you keep playing past your bedtime.

Action video games actually help improve a player’s general learning capabilities, according to The findings were taken from a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Better learning through gaming

“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,” said Daphne Bavelier, a research professor in brain and cognitive sciences. “And they become better learners by playing the fast-paced action games.”

Bavelier, who has joint appointments at the University of Rochester and the University of Geneva, explained that our brains build templates of the world in order to predict what might happen next. This applies to a variety of situations, like when you’re having a conversation or driving.

Developing the correct templates faster leads to better performance and learning. Playing action video games seems to enhance that process.

“The better the template, the better the performance. And now we know playing action video game actually fosters better templates,” she said.

Smarter gaming

In a pattern discrimination task administered by the researchers, individuals who played action video games outperformed those who don’t. According to Bavelier and her team, this is because the action-gamers’ brains used a better template for the visual performance task.

In another experiment, individuals with little gaming experience were split into two groups. Over a course of 9 weeks, both groups played video games for 50 hours, but one group played action video games and the other played non-action games.

The participants were tested on a pattern discrimination test before and after the “training,” and results showed that the action-gamers improved their templates, compared to the non-action-gamers. This leads to the conclusion that it’s the game that endows the players with better templates. Bavelier and her team also found that action-gamers performed better in a perceptual learning task, being able to build and adjust templates much faster than the non-action-gamers.

Positive long-term effects

The positive effects of playing action video games also seem to be long-lasting; when tested up to a year later, participants who “trained” on action games still performed better than the other group.

Bavelier’s team is currently trying to pinpoint which specific characteristics of action video games actually contribute to players’ learning. “Games other than action video games may be able to have the same effect,” she said. — Bea Montenegro/TJD, GMA News

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