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Video Game Training Makes You Faster, Better

2010 January 19
by Richard N. Landers
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ResearchBlogging.orgIn the December 2009 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, Dye, Green and Bavelier[1] set out to explore the positive benefits to video game playing on reaction times.  It is well-accepted at this point that gamers have better reaction times than non-gamers – they respond more quickly to stimuli.  The authors did not question this, but wanted to take it a step further by asking this question: Are regular gamers “trigger happy” – that is, have their reaction times improved by sacrificing accuracy?  It is a stereotype that action gamers are more impulsive than others – but is that really the case?

In their compilation of recent research from their laboratory, the not-so-shocking answer is no, and there are two convincing pieces of evidence to this point:

  1. Regular video game players (those who self-reported playing 5 hours or more per week) had superior reaction times with no loss of accuracy compared to non-gamers.
  2. Non-regular video game players randomly assigned to 50 hours of play of Unreal Tournament or Call of Duty 2 (both high-intensity action games) over the course of 8 weeks had superior reaction times with no loss of accuracy compared to those assigned to play The Sims (a slow-paced life simulator), although the sample was small.

Either of these studies alone is not too convincing; the first is based on self-report data (and thus, “being a video gamer” could be correlated with intelligence, a natural propensity toward faster reaction times, or any other number of unmeasured variables) and the sample size for the second is limited (N = 25).  But together, the picture they paint is quite compelling.

The implications of this are important.  Directed video game training could be used at the high school level to improve hand-eye coordination for students with no detriment to their ability to process accurately.  It also helps to quiet all those claims of “video games rot your brain.”  It also has critical implications for adult training for jobs where reaction times are critical: firefighters, air traffic controllers, and military personnel, just to name a few.

And if a few hours of Call of Duty will help you survive, don’t you owe it to yourself to pick up a controller?

  1. Dye, M., Green, C., & Bavelier, D. (2009). Increasing Speed of Processing With Action Video Games Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18 (6), 321-326 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01660.x []
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7 Responses leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010

    Though it’s reassuring to see that my hours in front of a Playstation 2 haven’t been wasted, I can’t help but feel angry that these guys got a grant and I can’t seem to fund my research on the conservation of a threatened species…

  2. January 19, 2010

    It’s all about finding someone that cares. Video games have an industry to promote them, and legions of devoted fans. Are there any useful shark by-products? Something where cultivating a large healthy shark population would be valuable? Shark saliva the key to curing cancer, perhaps?

  3. Tristan Verboven permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Videogames offer far more educational possibilities that simple eye-hand coordination and psyco-motor occupational training. They engage the brain on all levels and need to be taken more seriously. Even if they are never adopted into schools, it is important to realize that as long as people are playing them they are being educated by them.

    Please check out this article on the moral implications of videogame use

  4. January 26, 2010

    “Engage the brain on all levels” is pretty vague – if you’re claiming video games offer some unique benefit beyond traditional skills training, there is no evidence to that effect. And certainly all games teach you something, but the question is whether that something is useful, valuable, or done more effectively than through traditional means.

  5. Tristan Verboven permalink
    January 26, 2010

    The details of my assertion are laid out in the above mentioned article. Videogames offer no benefit beyond traditional skills training or any other experience that I know of. They do however offer a new approach to learning that may shed some of the limitations that come from traditional pedagogy and classroom design. My particular concern is the moral education that can potentially come from a video game platform. It is important not to think of videogames or anything else as a magic wand, nor a force of evil. The fact is that kids are interested in them and motivated by them. It is up to us as teachers to harness this opportunity.

  6. October 6, 2010

    I play games and sports. Would that mean if a soccer ball came right for my face, i’d be able to doge it alot faster than the average athlete or a simple person who does not play sports nor videogames?

  7. October 6, 2010

    You are committing an ecological fallacy. You cannot generalize from comparisons of group means to any particular individual (including yourself). This is akin to saying “men are taller than women” (which is true) and assuming any particular man will be taller than any particular woman (which is not true).

    Gamers have faster reaction times than non-gamers. But we cannot assume that any particular gamer will have faster reaction times than any particular non-gamer.

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