24/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 14:00

Action video gamers better at making quick decisions

Category: Technology

Published: 14th Sep 2010 10:59:46

Action video game enthusiasts are better quick-fire decision-makers, according to researchers.

Gamers presented with both audio and visual tests proved better than non-gamers at a simple choice-making task.

Even non-gamers who played action games for 50 hours as part of the experiment picked up the decision-making skills.

The research, published in Current Biology, adds to the group's prior findings that gamers have more acute attention spans than non-gamers.

Other research has shown that video gameplay improves aspects of vision, including visual memory, and the ability to change between mental tasks quickly.

What has remained unclear is if there is any connection between these disparate findings, explained Shawn Green, lead author of the new work.

"The current paper asks... is video game training really teaching a lot of individual skills, or is there one single mechanistic explanation that underlies all of the effects?," Dr Green told BBC News.

"We argue in the paper that it is the latter: one single mechanistic explanation - an improvement in probabilistic inference - that explains why video game training enhances performance on so many very different tasks."

This "probabilistic inference" is in essence the degree to which assimilating many small pieces of information leads to good decisions.

"Because there is uncertainty in the world, and in our ability as humans to measure and understand the world, the best we can do when making decisions is to compute how each little snippet of evidence we receive changes the probability that the various alternatives available to us are the correct option," Dr Green explained.

To put gamers' and non-gamers' probabilistic inference to the test, the team, led by Rochester's Daphne Bavelier, came up with two experiments - one visual and one auditory.

In the visual test, an array of dots was made to move, on the whole, in one direction or another. Participants were asked to choose which direction they thought the field of dots was moving, with the task made more difficult by varying the degree to which the dots moved in synchrony.

The auditory test included a series of noises, with participants asked to guess which ear was receiving the target sound among a great deal of noise.

Both tasks require the accumulation of clues, because the answers were not immediately clear.

The team found that avowed gamers were significantly faster at coming up with the right answer than non-gamers.

"We found that in both tasks, video game players made their decisions much faster than non-video game players, but with an equivalent level of accuracy - thus showing that the video game players weren't just 'trigger happy', which would have led to a decrease in accuracy," Dr Green said.

"Fitting the data with a neural model indicated that the video game player results could be explained if they were performing better probabilistic inference - in essence, every little dot or sound was telling them more about the correct answer than the exact same dot or sound was telling the non-video game players."

Jeffrey Goldstein of Utrecht University's Department of Social and Organizational Psychology pointed out the group's long-established experimental approach of allowing non-gamers to practise games for tens of hours, saying that it eliminates the question of correlations and causality.

That is, the results show that gamers have improved skill, rather than those with improved skills tend to be gamers.

"In order to eliminate the problem of correlations, she trains people to see whether they improve," Professor Goldstein told BBC News.

"She can argue pretty convincingly that playing these games is a cause of improved skills, however they're defined."

Dan Pinchbeck, a games researcher from the University of Portsmouth in the UK, said the results were something "not many gamers would disagree with", saying the fact that the result was limited to action games - rather than, for example, slower-moving role-playing games - might reflect the very skills that action games hone.

However, he said the paper's line of research promised much understanding yet to come.

"It's such early days for this kind of stuff in relation to games," Dr Pinchbeck told BBC News.

"What's really important is that we're seeing hard scientific data get attached to the understanding of games; we're not working just on opinion and unsubstantiated theory - that's critical.

"We need more on the table to paint an accurate picture of what's going on with gamers, but these are tantalising hints of what could be out there."

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2010. Action video gamers better at making quick decisions [Online] (Updated 14th Sep 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/90028/Action-video-gamers-better-at-making-quick-decisions [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • C&C creating 25 jobs in Boucher area of south Belfast

    Twenty five jobs are being created by the soft drinks firm C&C in south Belfast over the next two years.
  • Pet Shop Boys premiere Alan Turing work at BBC Proms

    An orchestral work by the Pet Shop Boys about the life of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing is to have its world premiere at this year's BBC Proms.
  • Westminster doing 'no preparation for Scots independence'

    Call me naïve, but I thought the government would be making contingency plans for the possibility that the Scots vote for independence.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Unison ballot for strike action over 1% pay offer

    Public sector union Unison is to ballot local government workers and school staff in England for strikes after members rejected a 1% pay offer.
  • Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final: Northampton v Harlequins (Fri)

    Northampton Saints have made four changes for their Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final against Harlequins.