Action games like "Call of Duty 2" can help people make decisions faster without compromising accuracy

According to University of Rochester scientists, certain video games can help people make decisions faster without compromising accuracy. 

University of Rochester cognitive scientists Daphne Bavelier, C. Shawn Green, and Alexandre Pouget have conducted a study showing that video games can aid in quicker decision-making in humans. 

A 2009 report by the Entertainment Software Association said that approximately 68 percent of American households contain people who play video games. This number may outrage those who believe that video games make people lazy, and is a useless hobby that doesn't intellectually stimulate those who play them. But now, scientists at the University of Rochester are saying otherwise. 

Bavelier, Green and Pouget have conducted a study where the test subjects were "dozens" of people ranging from 18-to 25-years-old and who were not video game players. The subjects were split into two groups where one played 50 hours of "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament" while the other group played 50 hours of "The Sims 2." "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament" are fast-paced games requiring strategy and quick decision-making while "The Sims 2" is slow-moving and does not require a lot of quick decisions. 

After their gaming experience, the test subjects were asked to look at a screen and make quick decisions regarding the various tasks occurring on that screen. An example of the visual tasks was watching a set of dots move about the screen erratically, then noting if they having been moving to the right or to the left on average. Other tasks included auditory tests as well.  

The researchers concluded that the group who played "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament" were 25 percent faster at making these decisions than the group who played "The Sims 2." Also, the first group was able to accurately answer as many questions as the second slower group. 

According to the University of Rochester scientists, this shows that video games with fast-paced, strategic themes help gamers continuously calculate and refine probabilities in their minds, leading to quick decision-making. The process is called probabilistic inference, where the brain gathers small pieces of auditory or visual information while the person is observing a specific area. Once enough information is gathered, the brain can make a decision. With action video games, people are putting this process to use continuously and on a regular basis, helping them make faster decisions that are just as accurate as those who take longer to make a decision. 

"It's not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster," said Bavelier. "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." 

This study was published in Current Biology

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