Action gamers 'make decisions faster'

21:43, Sep 20 2010

Lenin supposedly once said "chess is the gymnasium of the mind". You can't help but wonder what his opinion would have been on video games.

A Rochester University study suggests that those who play fast-paced shooter-type video games make decisions faster than those playing other games while staying just as accurate.

The study involved two groups of fifty 18- to 25-year-olds.

One group played Call of Duty 2 or Unreal Tournament and the other played a slower-paced game, The Sims 2.

The groups were allowed to play 50 hours (not all at once) of their respective games. They were then tested using visual and aural tasks on the accuracy and speed of their decision-making.

The action gamers made just as many correct decisions as the Sims group, and were up to 25 per cent faster in making them.

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The study goes on to suggest that fast-paced gaming can indirectly improve day-to-day skills like multitasking, driving, navigating, keeping track of people in crowds and personal awareness.

Study co-author Daphne Bevalier explains how human brains make decisions:

"People make decisions based on probabilities that they are constantly calculating and refining in their heads," she says.

"The process is called probabilistic inference. The brain continuously accumulates small pieces of visual or auditory information as a person surveys a scene, eventually gathering enough for the person to make what they perceive to be an accurate decision."

The study suggests action gamers' brains become more efficient at collecting visual and aural information, so they arrive at the threshold of information needed to make decisions faster than non-gamers, or those playing slower-paced games.

So, next time someone nags you to "stop playing those stupid games" - just tell them that you are sharpening your decision-making reflexes and point them to this study.

Well... I guess that old "everything in moderation" line probably still rings true, as well.

One post on Wired.com makes light of the study, poking fun at the "videogame wisdom" taught by gaming.

"It's generally best to shoot anyone you see. You usually can't hurt people unless they're your enemies," they say.

"You'll know when something really has to happen immediately, because a timer will appear and start counting down."

Do you think this study has merit? Do you think life skills can be improved by video games? Which skills do you think would be sharpened? Which games would be best?

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