Study: Gamers Better, Faster At Interpreting Visual Input

from the look-over-there! dept

As someone who considers video games my primary source of entertainment media, I'm among a group that tends to cringe whenever I hear about the next study done concerning video games. Whether it's agenda-driven crackpots claiming a link to violence, despite many other studies showing the opposite, or even positive studies on games and children that you just know will produce a backlash, these things tend to get people riled up. So it's somewhat nice to see a study that doesn't take on the more ideological positions normally discussed, but instead just looks at one positive effect gamers experience.

I'm talking about a recent study out of Duke that suggests gamers simply see the world differently, or at least get more out of visual perception than those who don't play games.

"Gamers see the world differently," said Greg Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine. "They are able to extract more information from a visual scene."

Each participant was run though a visual sensory memory task that flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters for just one-tenth of a second. After a delay ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one spot on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were asked to identify which letter had been in that spot. At every time interval, intensive players of action video games outperformed non-gamers in recalling the letter.
This seems to jive nicely with common sense. Video games are visual medium that specifically tasks players to read what they see and react accordingly. Still, with all the talk you tend to hear about how the youth of the world is turning into a zombie army of button mashers, it might be easy to lose perspective on all the effects, particularly those that are positive. What the study essentially is saying is that gamers tend to be more observant and better able to make quick decisions based on what they see than non-gamers. There is, quite obviously, a host of real-world arenas where this kind of skill is valuable.

More interestingly, this isn't simply a function of memory retention. The brain of the gamer is truly trained specifically to see more, not remember more, and to exact a proper decision for what is around them. The authors of the study are planning on following this up with a look into brain-scans and MRIs, so perhaps we'll learn even more about how and why gamers see the world differently.



Reader Comments (rss)

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    Ferel (profile), Jun 20th, 2013 @ 11:49pm

    A word of caution.

    Improved response to stimulus may not translate to real-world application in some cases. Jumping over anything with your thumb is not recommended. Seek medical attention for anyone you may have reflexively punched when surprised (and probably psychiatric help for yourself).

     

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      identicon
      horse with no name, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:53am

      Re: A word of caution.

      Good conclusion to the story, actually. Short term stutter reactions may in fact change the way that the gamer handles input, with responses crafted to be more of the "do something" variety rather than "best response". It may remove some of the processing for things such as right / wrong in the moral or ethical sense from the discussion, as the responses come faster than that processing would allow.

      I don't think of it any different from a football goalie who seems to have the ability to dive the right way on a penalty shot or from a deflected ball, without having to process all that is involved. It doesn't make them particularly any smarter, just that they have a small subset of skills fine tuned and honed for a single purpose.

      The number of real world applications for a fast thumb isn't very high, but I guess a gamer would think otherwise.

      PS: Sorry if this post appears far out of sync with the discussion. Techdirt has chosen to censor my posting by forcing every post into moderation. You guys should consider that to be a warning, don't disagree with the man, he will censor you.

       

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        That One Guy (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re: A word of caution.

        Umm, dude, might want to get your joke sensor re-calibrated, it seems to be just slightly off.

        Also, regarding the last line, the public flagging comments as spam/harassing/not worth reading is 'censorship' in the same way as adblock or a spam filter is: nothing more than saving people from having crap shoved in their faces while reading/browsing, which you may notice is not even close to the actual definition of censorship.

         

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          horse with no name, Jun 23rd, 2013 @ 4:11am

          Re: Re: Re: A word of caution.

          No, you don't get it. When I post, the post is IMMEDIATELY put in moderation, and not added to the discussion. It's not a question of you guys deciding to flag by cliking report, rather it's a system wide ban that required everyone of my comments to be approved by moderators before it appears on the site.

          It's called censorship, because about 50% or more of my posts just don't make it.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2013 @ 7:13pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: A word of caution.

            You've made it clear that you're only willing to post nothing but drivel. If 50% of your posts don't make it it's because you don't pass the laugh test for intelligence. Boo fucking hoo.

             

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        nasch (profile), Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 9:35am

        Re: Re: A word of caution.

        It may remove some of the processing for things such as right / wrong in the moral or ethical sense from the discussion, as the responses come faster than that processing would allow.

        Yes, we could just make stuff up that isn't supported by any evidence.

        It doesn't make them particularly any smarter

        Nobody said it does.

        The number of real world applications for a fast thumb isn't very high, but I guess a gamer would think otherwise.

        Then again, if you even read the article (even just the headline), it's about extracting visual information and has nothing to do with "a fast thumb".


        PS: Sorry if this post appears far out of sync with the discussion.


        It actually appears to be making stuff up in a vain attempt to discredit absolutely everything Techdirt writes.

         

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      Zem, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:30am

      Re: A word of caution.

      But if you ever confront a gorilla throwing barrels down a ramp, your good to go.

       

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      Anonymous Howard (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 2:21am

      Re: A word of caution.

      I think you're jumping to conclusions about what increased awareness and shorter reaction time means

       

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    Emil Ole William Kirkegaard, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:41am

    Not a good study. They didn't control for IQ. Intelligence is known to affect such things. Might just be that their gamer sample is smarter than their non-gamer sample.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:56am

      Re:

      What? Not possible. Gamers are a bunch of illiterate, unintelligent, immoral freetards. out_of_the_blue said so; it must be true!

      /sarc

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 2:34am

      Re:

      But IQ is a load of tosh anyway. Depending on which set of tests you try you get staggeringly different results.

       

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      M68H (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 3:10am

      Re:

      All IQ tests show is that you can do an IQ test, nothing to do with "intelligence".

      The vast majority of IQ questions rely on pattern recognition questions.

      Personal example my uncle has an incredibly high IQ (measured by MENSA), but has been known on occasions to call an electrician to his house when a light-bulb has blown, not what I would call smart

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:08am

      Re:

      How higher IQ correlates to great peripheral view and time reactions to visual stimuli?

      I do remember a study showing that medical students that were gamers were more proficient at operating surgical robots and instruments than their non gamer counterparts.

      So forgive me for being a bit skeptical about the assumption that IQ relates to physical time responses to visual input.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re:

        So forgive me for being a bit skeptical about the assumption that IQ relates to physical time responses to visual input.


        You should be. No specific study was cited, so we don't know what it really said. Sound bite summaries like "Higher IQ is correlated with better reaction times" are usually misleading to the point of just being lies.

        Also, it is well established that there are several different kinds of intelligence which are independent of each other. There is a longstanding, ongoing debate about how many kinds there are, but no debate that there's a multiplicity.

        One of those kinds of "physical intelligence." Athletes are typically strong in this, and it covers the ability to use your body effectively. Reaction time may very well be correlated with this. I don't remember seeing any correlation between reaction time and the (worthless) measure of general IQ.

         

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    RyanNerd (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:09am

    How many gamers does it take to change a light bulb?

     

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      RyanNerd (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:10am

      Re: How many gamers does it take to change a light bulb?

      600. 1 to change it. The other 599 can't stop complaining how the other one was better.

       

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        nasch (profile), Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 9:38am

        Re: Re: How many gamers does it take to change a light bulb?

        600. 1 to change it. The other 599 can't stop complaining how the other one was better.

        In my experience, about half of them would be complaining about how the other one sucks (despite changing the light bulb better than them) and the other half would call him gay slurs.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:16am

    Anybody who can play 1943: The Battle of Midway for half an hour without losing, most probably have very low reaction times(meaning has faster response to stimuli) and great peripheral awareness, meaning that dude driving a real car is very less likely to crash.

    The beauty of it, is that it is an acquired skill.

    Games are good to improve reaction times to visual stimuli, and hand coordination.

     

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    Mark Harrill (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:17am

    Wait...

    Isn't this how Ender's Game started?

     

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    ScytheNoire, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:21am

    I'm confused

    I thought video gamers were all trained killers just waiting to explode and start killing innocent civilians.

    Oh wait, that's the police and military.

     

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    dennis deems (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:26am

    jibe, not jive

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:00am

    I wonder if that would mean that gamers would be good at martial arts or some other sports that require split second decisions. They they might be able to react faster than non gamers. That is assuming they are somewhat fit gamers.

     

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    Magill (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:52am

    One wonders if any of the previous commenters have ever played ANY game, video or otherwise?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 9:09am

    hmmm, been slacking off on my gaming, should train a bit tonight XD

     

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    Nick (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 11:08am

    But moooooooom, I am getting exercise! I'm training my mind for better reaction times!

     

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    Emil Ole William Kirkegaard, Jun 23rd, 2013 @ 10:49pm

    IQ denialism

    I didn't know the IQ denialism would spring up here. Since I'm an expert in the field, I will supply some basic references for the deniers and everybody else curious. It is a very important field to understand, as intelligence is very important in our society, and becoming increasingly more important, thus making it increasingly more important to understand it, and its implications.

    "But IQ is a load of tosh anyway. Depending on which set of tests you try you get staggeringly different results."

    No. All IQ tests and all other mental tests measure the same thing (g-factor = general intelligence) but to different degrees (their g-loadedness). All mental tests correlate positively.

    "All IQ tests show is that you can do an IQ test, nothing to do with "intelligence"."

    A claimed lack of validity (inability to predict other things; only being about 'test smartness' etc.). Flatly contradicted by the evidence. IQ scores (g-factor even better) is the best predictor for many areas of life, most importantly education level.

    " The vast majority of IQ questions rely on pattern recognition questions."

    This is probably true, that's because pattern recognition ability is very closely related to intelligence.

    " Personal example my uncle has an incredibly high IQ (measured by MENSA), but has been known on occasions to call an electrician to his house when a light-bulb has blown, not what I would call smart"

    Anecdotes are not important.

    "How higher IQ correlates to great peripheral view and time reactions to visual stimuli?

    I do remember a study showing that medical students that were gamers were more proficient at operating surgical robots and instruments than their non gamer counterparts.

    So forgive me for being a bit skeptical about the assumption that IQ relates to physical time responses to visual input."

    It is well known among experts and very well replicated. See Arthur Jensen's Clocking the mind.
    http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Arthur_R._Jensen_Clocking_the_Mind_Mental_ChronBook os.org_.pdf

    " You should be. No specific study was cited, so we don't know what it really said. Sound bite summaries like "Higher IQ is correlated with better reaction times" are usually misleading to the point of just being lies."

    No 'sound bite', it is a empirically very well replicated finding. See above reference.

    " Also, it is well established that there are several different kinds of intelligence which are independent of each other. There is a longstanding, ongoing debate about how many kinds there are, but no debate that there's a multiplicity."

    Nothing could be further form the truth. There is about zero research going into multiple intelligence 'theories'. And when actually tested, they are not independent of each other.

    See http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?p=3677 and http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?p=3889

    "One of those kinds of "physical intelligence." Athletes are typically strong in this, and it covers the ability to use your body effectively. Reaction time may very well be correlated with this. I don't remember seeing any correlation between reaction time and the (worthless) measure of general IQ."

    There is no such thing as "physical intelligence", and no standard tests to measure this.

    For someone so dismissive of IQ testing, one would have assumed that you had at least read Wikipedia! Alas, this is clearly not the case.

    For those claims I made above without citing specific literature, consult any textbook on the topic, or other introductory reading. Here are some:

    http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Intelligence-a-very-short-introduction.pdf

    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1997whygmatters.pdf
    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfr edson/reprints/2002notamystery.pdf

    http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/The-g-factor-th e-science-of-mental-ability-Arthur-R.-Jensen.pdf

    http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/4 2937846-The-g-Factor-General-Intelligence-and-Its-Implications-Chris-Brand-Race-Difference-IQ-School -Grades-Exam-Results-Educational-Achievement-Alex-Jon.pdf

     

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    hopponit (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:26pm

    video gamers

    Makes me wonder about something that may or may not link to this subject. I don't think of myself as a gamer. I prefer simulatiors such as racing. But when the kids were younger I played along with them. I had been into very high speed road racing as a younger guy and had been fairly good at it. The kids were surprised when I used to beat them at the games. The focus and speedy processing of input from the racing helped me with the games. So, if you tested race drivers along side gamers how would they stack up? Would the training of the brain of the gamers and drivers prove to be comparable? I'm thinking of more extreme racers such as F-1, motorcycles, or aircraft pylon racers just to name a few.

     

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