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Science Undecided on Whether Action Video Games Augment Our Ability to Learn

Researchers have long understood that playing action-packed video games can boost one’s cognitive and perceptual abilities. A new study claims to have found the reason: These types of video games improve one’s ability to learn new tasks. The problem is that a conflicting study claims the exact opposite. 

It’s no secret that the science community is fascinated by video games. Over the past few decades, large sections of society beings have taken up this new hobby that can’t be compared to anything else in history. Researchers quickly picked up that extended gameplay has the ability change one’s cognitive abilities, often for the better. William Herkewitz of Popular Mechanics explains

“Over the past decade, study after study has shown that fast-paced video games bequeath a shocking range of small but measurable cognitive and perceptual benefits to gamers.”

The authors of those studies observed marked improvement among their subjects yet could never identify why. One new study claims to have found the answer:

“Today, in a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [Princeton University psychologist Vikranth] Bejjanki and his colleagues have claimed to identify the source of these mental upgrades for the first time. ‘Action video games, to put it simply, seem to enhance your ability to learn how to learn,’ Bejjanki says.” 

Herkewitz’ piece offers an in-depth explanation of the study, so go ahead and read it (linked below) if you want the gory details. The basic summary is that Bejjanki’ subjects who played 50 hours of video games showed a slight improvement in their ability to pick up new tasks. The problem with these findings is that they’re contradicted by another study mentioned in Herkewitz’ piece:

“But Walter Boot, a psychologist who studies action video games at Florida State University, says the story is likely more complicated than Bejjanki’s study might suggest. Boot points to another recent study, this one in The Journal of Experimental Psychology, in which the authors tested the same theory as Bejjanki’s team but came to the exact opposite conclusion. The title of their paper says it all: ‘Action Video Games Do Not Improve the Speed of Information Processing in Simple Perceptual Tasks.'”

So the jury is still out on on this one. Take a look at each of the studies and let us know what you think.

Read more at Popular Mechanics

Photo credit: Sanzhar Murzin / Shutterstock


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