September 14, 2010
Video Games Improve Fast Decision Making?

Play a video game to improve your mind's ability to accurately assess and act on information?

Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester have discovered that playing action video games trains people to make the right decisions faster. The researchers found that video game players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, and this benefit doesn't just make them better at playing video games, but improves a wide variety of general skills that can help with everyday activities like multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town.

In an upcoming study in the journal Current Biology, authors Daphne Bavelier, Alexandre Pouget, and C. Shawn Green report that video games could provide a potent training regimen for speeding up reactions in many types of real-life situations.

Video games have grown in popularity to the point where 68 percent of American households have members that play them, according to a 2009 report by the Entertainment Software Association.

I'm picturing a mom saying "No outdoor sports for you young man. You can't go out and play until you get a better score on your video game".

Strategy games do not speed up decision-making ability.

The researchers tested dozens of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not ordinarily video game players. They split the subjects into two groups. One group played 50 hours of the fast-paced action video games "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament," and the other group played 50 hours of the slow-moving strategy game "The Sims 2."

Faster decisions with no loss of accuracy.

After this training period, all of the subjects were asked to make quick decisions in several tasks designed by the researchers. In the tasks, the participants had to look at a screen, analyze what was going on, and answer a simple question about the action in as little time as possible (i.e. whether a clump of erratically moving dots was migrating right or left across the screen on average). In order to make sure the effect wasn't limited to just visual perception, the participants were also asked to complete an analogous task that was purely auditory.

The action game players were up to 25 percent faster at coming to a conclusion and answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game playing peers.

But is the sort of faster decision-making that action games develop the best for better performance in the business world?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 September 14 10:34 PM  Brain Performance

Lono said at September 15, 2010 9:03 AM:


(and yes - I am a Mensan and have over 440 PC video games alone)

Jim said at September 15, 2010 11:12 AM:

Any system which practices decision making skills will improve decision making speed (ah, duh?)

Be it role playing in a social setting, computer game, whatever, if you practice a mental skill it will, amazingly, get better over time.

Computer gaming just makes it a bit easier to practice this particular speed skill, without all the social interaction and real world decision making experience (that's just so 80's).

That said, practicing decision making in this way will not improve the quality of the decisions and in the real world making a decision a millisecond faster rarely improves the real world result (well, unless you are a professional gamer and you need one more kill to win the Unreal tournament).

[yes, having spent over 500 hours of my life playing fast paced video games I have a little experience in this regard]

Kendall Helmstetter Gelner said at September 15, 2010 1:39 PM:

"But is the sort of faster decision-making that action games develop the best for better performance in the business world?"

Yes, because it teaches you to recognize patterns faster - patterns in movement and sound are not altogether different than patterns in behavior, or in numbers a business deals with.

pete the elder said at September 15, 2010 1:52 PM:

Why did they pick the Sims 2? Why not a real time strategy game like Warcraft III, Age of Mythology, or Company of heroes? Those all have all lot more time pressure (I have never played sims 2, but that is what I have ehard about it), plus they are all based around resource and time management, i.e. do I build another archer now or wait 2 minutes and save up for a better bow for my existing archers.

me said at September 15, 2010 1:54 PM:

The Sims 2 is a strategy game? They couldn't find a copy of Civ 4 anywhere?

mycrytonymn said at September 15, 2010 2:21 PM:

So that is what caused this 14 year old to "accurately assess and act on"

Holmes said at September 15, 2010 2:36 PM:

Yes, as others have noted, The Sims 2 was a terrible choice as a "strategy" game, though perhaps a good choice as a general control of some kind of video game. RTS strategy games would not have been great choices, since those are also very twitch-sensitive and time-critical games, but as "me" said above, Civ 4 would have been an apt choice.

pete the elder said at September 15, 2010 3:27 PM:

Preferably you would have an action game like call of duty, a RTS game, a Civ type turn based strategy game, a sims 2 game, and maybe a group that did not play any game at all or else played a non computer game to see how the different games affected people.

John S said at September 15, 2010 3:32 PM:

This is ridiculous. The Sims 2 isn't even a strategy game. It's fluff.

If they had used Starcraft 2 in this test, I guarantee you they would have seen markedly greater improvements in the test group playing strategy games, than in those playing action games.

Jack said at September 15, 2010 9:28 PM:

You "guarantee" us, huh John? This is why we have science. Hunches and "gut" don't build rockets.

John said at September 16, 2010 3:05 AM:

Sorry Jack, you call Sims 2 a strategy game, and then give credence to a test that compares 'strategy games' to 'action games', claiming that action games improve cognitive performance, but strategy games don't? That isn't science, that's just sloppy selection of control groups.

ucfengr said at September 16, 2010 5:52 AM:

As someone with a lot of gaming experience ("When I was growing up, we didn't have fancy, schmancy computers and "gaming consoles", we had paper, pencil and funny shaped dice, and we were damn glad of it" /crochetedly old man voice) I would agree that The Sims is a poor choice for comparison. Starcraft 2, Warcraft 3 or some other real-time strategy game would have been more appropriate. I wonder what the results would have been if some MMORPG like World of Warcraft had been used. These games could almost be called a hybrid between Sims-type games and FPS games.

Lono said at September 16, 2010 9:58 AM:

pete the elder,

Preferably you would have been put in charge of this study because you are right on brotha!

Sims 2 was a serviceable alternative but your suggested protocol would have been infinitely more interesting and useful.

JS Allen said at September 20, 2010 9:41 AM:

Furthermore, regular play of Call of Duty makes your Hippocampus larger.

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