Thursday, 13 November 2014

JUST PUBLISHED: Does Playing Action Video Games Really Improve Your Information Processing?

Over the last decade, a number of studies have been published that suggest that playing action video games improves performance on sensory, perceptual, and attentional tasks. For instance, Green, Pouget, and Bavelier (2010) found that playing action video games led to faster information processing, reduced response caution, and no difference in motor responding. These and related findings are sufficiently hot right now that they often make it to popular science outlets like Ted talks (for example, see Daphne Bavelier’s Ted talk).

Because perceptual learning is generally thought to be highly context-specific, this transfer from gaming is surprising and warrants corroborative evidence from a large-scale training study. We (van Ravenzwaaij, Boekel, Forstmann, Ratcliff, & Wagenmakers, 2014) conducted two experiments in which participants that were self-reported non-gamers practiced either an action video game or a cognitive game in five separate, supervised sessions. Prior to each session and following the last session, participants performed a perceptual discrimination task. In the second experiment, we included a third condition in which no video games were played at all.

We analysed the behavioural data and found, in contrast to earlier findings, that action gamers, cognitive gamers, and non-gamers all improved as a result of practice, but that, importantly, there was no differential benefit for the group of participants that had played the action game. A diffusion model decomposition of the data indicated that the practice effect observed in all conditions was due to faster information processing.

We concluded that, in contrast to earlier reports, playing action video games does not improve the speed of information processing in simple perceptual tasks.

For more details, see the following journal article, available on the first author’s website:

van Ravenzwaaij, D., Boekel, W., Forstmann, B. U., Ratcliff, R., & Wagenmakers, E. J. (2014). Action video games do not improve the speed of information processing in simple perceptual tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143 (5), 1794-805 PMID: 24933517

Or read the online APA PeePs blogpost.