Does gaming affect mental development?

What is gaming?Is it just using your fingers to move the joystick or to use a controller?      Gaming is defined as the use of brain to control the character using a controller or joystick.

Gaming affects the mental development of a person on a very large scale.

How does gaming affect mental development?(Advantages)

Improvements in basic visual processes

• Improved visual contrast sensitivity.

Fifty hours of action video game play (spread over ten to twelve weeks) improved visual contrast sensitivity (the ability to distinguish subtle differences in shades of gray) compared to controls .

• Successful treatment of amblyopia.

Amblyopia (also called “lazy eye”) is a disorder arising from early childhood in which one eye becomes essentially non-functional.  Li and colleagues (2011) performed experiments in which some adults with this disorder played action video games using only the bad eye (the good eye was covered).  Other adults with the disorder did other things with the good eye covered, such as knitting or watching television.  The result was that those in the gaming condition showed great improvement—often to normal or near-normal functioning—while those in the other conditions did not.  Many in the gaming condition developed 20/20 vision or better in the previously “lazy eye,” and visual attention and stereoscopic vision (ability to coordinate input from the two eyes to see depth) were restored to normal.

Improvements in attention and vigilance

• Improved spatial attention.  Green & Bavelier (2012) found that action video gaming improved performance on the ability to locate, quickly, a target stimulus in a field of distractors–a test that has been found to be a good predictor of driving ability.

• Improved ability to track moving objects in a field of distractors.

Action games improved the ability of children and adults to keep track of a set of moving objects that were visually identical to other moving objects in the visual field

• Reduced impulsiveness.

Action games improved performance in a test of the ability to refrain from responding to non-target stimuli, in a situation in which most stimuli called for a response but an occasional stimulus called for no response

• Overcoming dyslexia.  Dysexia, in at least some cases, seems to derive from problems of visual attention.  One study showed that as few as 12 hours of video game play improved dyslexic children’s scores on tests of reading and phonology .  In fact, the improvement was as great or greater than that achieved by training programs that were explicitly designed to treat dyslexia.

Improvements in executive functioning

Executive functioning

Refers to a person’s ability to allot his or her mental resources (such as perception, attention, memory) in ways that allow for rapid, efficient problem solving or decision-making.  Many experiments have shown positive effects of video-game training on measures of executive functioning.  Here are two examples

• Improved ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously.  Chiappi and colleagues  found that 50 hours of experience on an action video game significantly improved performance on a test called the Multi-Attribute Task Battery, which is modeled after skills required in piloting aircraft.  It involves using a joystick to keep a target centered on a screen, monitoring fuel levels, responding to lights on an instrument panel, and listening and responding to radio communication.  High scores on this test correlate well with real-world piloting performance.

• Increased mental flexibility.  A number of researchers have shown that experience with action video games improve people’s abilities to switch rapidly and without error between tasks that have conflicting demands

• Reversing mental decline that accompanies aging.

Cognitive flexibility, attention, working memory, and abstract reasoning all tend to decline with age.  Many experiments, with elderly participants, show that video game play results in improvement in all of these abilities .  One study found that such play led not just to cognitive improvements, but also to better self-concepts and enhanced qualities of life in elderly participants

Improvements in job-related skills

Many studies indicate that video games improve job performance, especially for jobs that require good eye-hand coordination, attention, excellent working memory, and quick decision-making.  One correlational study, for example, demonstrated that video gamers were better than non-gamers in ability to fly and land aerial drones and were essentially as good as trained pilots on this skill.  Another correlational study revealed that young, inexperienced surgeons who were also avid video gamers outperformed the most experienced surgeons in their field .  In an experiment, novice surgeons who were provided with experience with video games improved their performance in laparoscopic surgery compared with a control group of surgeons who did not have that experience .

To cognitive scientists, such research on effects of video games is fascinating in part because it demonstrates that the brain is far more moldable, throughout a person’s life, than was previously believed.  Until fairly recently most psychologists believed that the basic building blocks of intelligence were rather rigidly set (hard-wired) by one’s genes.  But the research summarized here, coupled with much other research, indicates that this is not true. It’s interestng to note that video games appear to build these components of intelligence faster and more efficiently than any other intervention anyone has devised.

If you are a parent who has been limiting your child’s computer play because of the claims you have read of harmful effects, the research summarized here and in my previous posts on video gaming might give you pause.  The bulk of the research suggests that the claims about negative effects of video gaming are largely myths and the positive effects are real.  As children know in their bones, the kinds of mental skills that video games help to develop are among the skills that are increasingly important in today’s world.






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