If you thought video games were useless, you might be interested in the September 14 issue of Current Biology that concluded that people who play action video games develop skill in detecting a range of visual and acoustic evidence that increases their decision-making capabilities with no loss of precision. Researchers call this skill probabilistic inference.
“What’s surprising in our study is that action games improved probabilistic inference not just for the act of gaming, but for unrelated and rather dull tasks,” says psychologist Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester in New York.
Unlike slower-paced video games that feature problems with specific solutions, action video games throw a rapid-fire series of unpredictable threats and challenges at players. Those who get a lot of practice, say, killing zombies attacking from haphazard directions in a shifting, postapocalyptic landscape pump up their probabilistic inference powers, Bavelier proposes.
Psychologist Alan Castel of the University of California, Los Angeles, calls the new study “thorough and intriguing.” Much remains to be learned, though, about whether and to what extent video-induced thinking improvements aid other skills, such as pilots’ ability to land airplanes in challenging conditions.
So if you think action-oriented video games have no redeeming value, think again. They may be helping you develop the skills you need to assess information rapidly and make decisions quickly, which you can apply to your world outside of video games.
Read the full article here.