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Playing Video Games Make You Smarter

Video games once seemed to be the undoing of kids of the 1970s, just as mobile addiction is a scary concept for parents of young millennials.

Children were thought to neglect their studies, become asocial, and shun outdoor activities. However, these may have been knee-jerk reactions to new technologies. Many people now claim that playing video games actually makes you smarter. Research has also shown that video games can result in positive structural brain changes.

Cognitive Skills and Memory

Video games are thought to cognitive skills even years after people stop playing. A doctoral study, which involved 27 gamers and non-gamers between 18 and 40 years, showed that people who played before adolescence but play no longer, performed better with tasks that require storage and manipulation of information to accomplish results. The study was published in Frontiers of Neuroscience by Marc Palaus and his superiors at the Cognitive NeuroLab of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).

Cognitive skills and working memories were tested thrice: before training on play Nintendo’s Super Mario 64, at the end of the training, and 15 days after. Different genres of video games can enhance cognitive functions in different ways. The games involve progressive challenges that make people want to play more and more.

According to Palaus, These two things are enough to make it an attractive and motivating activity, which requires constant and intense use of our brain’s resources.

He goes on to say that video games are perfect for strengthening cognitive ability without the players even noticing it. However, he qualifies this statement by stressing that these enhancements have limited effect on performance of other tasks not related to gaming, as is the case with most modules used in the formal training of cognitive skills.

Attention and Response Times

A study compared 27 expert video gamers and 30 amateur ones and found that action games involved larger volumes of grey matter. Another study by Green and Bavelier published in Current Biology found that video games enhance perception, focus and attention. It found that video games improve problem-solving and decision-making abilities in competitive scenarios.

Video gamers, particularly those who play action games, are required to focus on specific objects, which are often present amidst other, irrelevant elements. This helps players to acquire mental skills to pay attention to a single entity surrounded by numerous distractions.  Players can also better keep track of fast-moving objects than people who don’t play video games.  They exhibit a higher level of spatial awareness.

A test often used for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) screenings found that people who played video games had faster response times without sacrificing accuracy for speed. The test displayed the responses as being anticipatory; the participants who played video games relied on prediction rather than reaction after the fact. The study concluded that video gamers can respond faster to emerging scenarios without being more impulsive than non-gamers. So, simply put, we can say that mobile gaming has changed the landscape.

Problem-Solving Abilities

Video games require players to solve various problems. A 2013 study published in Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that playing games involving strategy was related to problem-solving capabilities, which impacted school grades. This showed that children who were more disposed to playing video games displayed better problem-solving abilities. This can be contradictory to what parents and teachers may want to believe about students prone to video gaming.

Another study conducted by Michigan State University scholars on 500 12-year olds found that children who played more video games were more creative when it came to drawing and writing. The improvement in creativity and imagination was not related to whether the games were violent or non-violent. Moreover, it was also found that the usage of computers, internet and mobile phones, apart from playing games was unrelated to the rise in creativity.

A study conducted by the University of Glasgow also established that students who played video games displayed better resourcefulness and flexibility and had better communications skills. These were linked to critical thinking and the ability to learn reflectively, traits that employers look for when hiring graduates out of college.

Decision-Making Skills

A study published in Policy Insights in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences explored ways to enhance conventional training methods used to improve decision-making capabilities and reduce bias. The researchers found that playing interactive video games made for better general decision-making abilities, both in the short-term and long-term. Inclination towards bias dropped to 31% in immediate testing and by 23% after three months.

Issues and Conclusion

Intelligence is a broad and multi-dimensional subject, so it is difficult to measure if video games really make one smarter. Though the studies mentioned above generally make a case for it, some elements of these studies may bring the accuracy or universality of the results into question.

Participants know whether they are in the experimental or the control group, which can lead to bias.

Furthermore, though we can measure how video games affect aspects of cognition, it is still unclear to what degree the games enhance cognition. However, all the different studies do point to the fact that people who play video games tend to display higher cognitive, creative, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities.

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