Could video games help you learn? According to a new study, video games provide more than just entertainment. Researchers at the University of Rochester find that playing action video games improves an individual’s ability to learn. Action game players are able to more quickly build what the researchers call templates—or a paradigm—so they can learn and adapt more quickly than non-gamers. The findings reveal more about how people learn.
The researchers conducted three experiments as part of their study. In the first experiment, they compared the performance of action video game players and people who do not play action video games in a visual pattern discrimination task. The game players out-performed the non-game players in pattern discrimination.
For the second experiment, the researchers wanted to find out if video game players are inherently better at games or whether they have learned how to learn faster than non-game players. The researchers recruited 50 participants with limited gaming experience. The participants played video games for 50 hours over the course of nine weeks. One group of participants played action games like Call of Duty. The control group played non-action games like The Sims. At the end of the experiment, the action gaming group demonstrated improved learning abilities compared to the non-action gaming group.
For the final experiment, the researchers tested both game players and non-game players in a perceptual learning task. Both groups began the task with no prior knowledge of the task. The researchers measured how quickly the participants mastered the learning task. The game players were able to create mental templates faster than the non-game players. The game players were also able to improvise during the task and had a much faster learning curve overall.
Daphne Bavelier, research professor in brain and cognitive sciences at UR explains the results in terms of the brain’s use of templates. “In order to sharpen its prediction skills, our brains constantly build models, or ‘templates’ of the world. The better the template, the better the performance. And now we know playing action video game actually fosters better templates.”
The researchers plan to investigate which aspects of action video games foster these learning abilities and whether traditional, non-video games can yield the same results.
This research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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