Video Games Help Us Make Faster Decisions

Scientists from the University of Rochester have found that playing fast-paced action video games helps players make decisions 25 per cent faster than normal, yet no less accurate.

We've long known that playing video games helps sharpen reflexes and motor skills, but a new study proves that gaming also has a strong effect on our cognitive abilities as well. Daphne Bavelier, Alexandre Pouget and C. Shawn Green have authored a study that purports to show that video games could be used as training to increase reaction time in a wide variety of real-life situations.

How did they come up with their results? The first step was finding "dozens" of 18-25 year olds that weren't already gamers. Once that herculean task was complete, they split the subjects into two groups. One group was subjected to 50 hours of fast-paced action games like Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament. The other group played 50 hours of strategy games like The Sims 2.

After the gaming sessions, participants had to complete several tasks set up by the researchers, generally by looking at a screen and determining the direction a group of dots was travelling. The action game players answered the questions 35 per cent faster than players of The Sims 2, while getting just as many answers correct.

Meanwhile The Sims 2 players were 75 per cent more likely to trap virtual people in a tiny room with no doors or windows, a figure that is pure assumption on my part.

"It's not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster," Bavelier said. "Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference."

To understand how the decision-making speed is enhanced, one needs to understand how the brain makes decisions. Humans are constantly taking in small pieces of visual or auditory information that is used to calculate possible responses to decisions in their heads. Eventually a person gathers enough information to make what they believe to be a correct decision.

"Decisions are never black and white," (Bavelier) said. "The brain is always computing probabilities. As you drive, for instance, you may see a movement on your right, estimate whether you are on a collision course, and based on that probability make a binary decision: brake or don't brake."

Action games simply help the players become more efficient at processing decision-making information.

Sure, they might seem like a bunch of Neanderthals when you meet them on Xbox Live, but rest assured, when an action gamer call your mother a whore, they decided to call your mother a whore faster than someone playing The Sims 2 would have.

Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions That Are No Less Accurate [Science Daily]


    I think they picked the wrong control group for this study.

    The test should've been run on 3 groups, an action-gamer group, the sims group, and a group that didn't play video games at all, or played a non-digital game.

    its so true! not so much FPSs, thats more just reaction times...

    more things like Starcraft. (you know, games that require real thought... :D)

    anyway, I play CS and Starcraft, and both definitely help in this regard.

    also, I'm sure the same is true for many sports...

    getting a little tired of this preconception that just because an activity involves a screen, it is completely detrimental to your health, and hence any evidence that shows otherwise is "amazing"

      I disagree with your first statement Matt.

      I would argue that FPS gamers are making many of the same decisions as RTS players.

      I have played a wide variety of games and been reasonably successful at most multi-player games. Specifically in relation to the CoD franchise, I am constantly making decisions which will affect my immediate survival and possible tactics for the near future. I can translate many of the same decision across to many game types. :)

      This has definitely improved my reaction times (IRL), as well as decision making times.

    I disagree. FPS and RTS games use very different skills. FPS is all about twitch controls and muscle memory, you practise until the very motions are buried in your brain and act upon instinct. It's all reactionary and improvised.

    RTS games require a lot more foresight and thought into build orders, prediction, etc. APM etc factors in, but the quality of your choices are much more important than the speed in which you input them.

    It is ok to think that video games are a nice hobby. But let's be honest, which true gamer actually spends only FIVE hours a week playing. The problem is not that you do not get anything positive out of the video games, it is more about that you could be using that time in other things which can reap even bigger benefits and require less time. Let's use a simple example, read a book and you may boast about it for the rest of your life. These studies probably talk about short term effects that probably fade with time.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now