A recent study claims that playing action video games improves your ability to "learn how to learn."
We've all heard the claims that playing First Person Shooters helps develop your visual acuity - specifically, your ability to discern movement with your peripheral vision. It's intuitive enough, but according to a new study, playing action games does more than just that - it helps you learn faster.
The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people trained to play action games were better able to adapt to new perception-based challenges. "Action video games, to put it simply, seem to enhance your ability to learn how to learn," says lead author Vikranth Bejjanki, a psychologist at Princeton University.
The "perception challenge" the study presented participants tasked them with identifying the orientation of fuzzy blotches on a screen with varying levels of background noise - the way an action gamer may discern an enemy sniper crawling through foliage in the distance. This task was chosen because, while initially difficult, it becomes easier with practice.
Curiously, what the results showed was not that action gamers scored better on this test. In fact, the tested groups scored equally on the test initially, but the action gamers were able to improve at the task much faster.
"You might have expected that people who played action video games were better at this task at the outset," Bejjanki says. "But that wasn't the case-both groups were about equal to begin with. Rather, as a function of being exposed to this new task, the action gamers became better at the task. They could more rapidly extract what was needed to do well."
Before we get too excited about these findings, however, do know that there have been detractors to such studies. For instance, Walter Boot, a psychologist who studies action video games at Florida State University, disagrees with this study's conclusions. Among his grievances is the means of selecting study participants, which he believes was skewed towards arriving at a specific conclusion.
"It could be that people who have better visual abilities and are fast learners are drawn to fast-paced action games because these are the abilities required to be good at these games," Boot says. In other words, by seeking out test participants who self-report as action gamers, the study authors may have actually been collecting individuals who simply happen to be fast learners, game or no game.
So, either action games are making you a fast learner, or you like action games because you're a fast learner. Either way, congratulations on being smart. Sadly, anecdotal evidence of Call of Duty voice chat seems to contradict these findings...
Source: Popular Mechanics