Study Finds Gaming Improves Task Switching, Information Filtering
Researchers find gamers adapt more quickly to unfamiliar tasks, really like arrows.
Many games, such as platformers, often feature sections with reversed controls or inverted physics. Up becomes down; left becomes right; the Konami code is suddenly DDUURLRLBA Select, et cetera. However, it turns out that these levels don't simply frustrate the hell out of you-- they're also training your brain to adjust more quickly to new tasks and information.
Here's an interesting write-up courtesy of Wai Yen Tang at VG Researcher. Scholars at Duke University have published findings on a correlation between gaming and task adaptability.
Matthew Cain and associates took 44 research subjects and divided them into two groups, gamers and non-gamers, to see which group could respond more quickly to a series of directional commands. One set of arrows, coded in blue, correlated with its respective directional arrow on the keyboard; another set of arrows, coded yellow, correlated to the inverse keys. So, participants who saw a left-facing blue arrow pressed 'left,' while a left-facing yellow arrow meant they needed to press 'right.' A third element to the experiment tasked players with paying attention to one arrow out of a string of arrows, to gauge how well participants could filter out distractions.
The team calculated the average amount of time and the accuracy with which the gamer and non-gamer groups completed these tasks and found that those in the gamer group responded more quickly and more accurately than their non-gamer peers. Cain et al concluded that gaming, especially high-attention genres like first-person shooters, correlated with faster, more adaptive reflexes, and they were better at processing distractions as well.
Obviously this isn't akin to saying gamers are in possession of some super-human reflexes and cognitive abilities, but it does help validate what a lot of us have always known, which is that games can sharpen our minds. There are other factors to consider in the study as well, mind you, such as the sample size and the gender discrepancy between the two groups (the latter of which, at least, Cain et al do attempt to account for).
Head on over to VG Researcher for a complete write-up of the study.