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They help train the brain in making quick, accurate decisions, study suggests.


Contrary to popular belief, playing video games is a not waste of time.  Video game players may actually be better thinkers than most.  Video games force gamers to be fast on their feet.  Action-games in particular encourage players to better use evidence drawn from their senses in decision-making. 

According to 
Business Week and WebMD a new study in the Current Biology journal suggests that video game play helps gamers develop a skill known as "probabilistic inference", which refers to how we process the information we have when we need to make a snap decision.

Video game players absorb information quickly and make sound snap decisions, the research indicates.

"They are making more efficient use of the information that is out there," said C. Shawn Green, postdoctoral associate at the Kersten Computational Vision Lab at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study.  

"Video game players pull more information from the sensory world, related to the decisions facing them."

The research suggests that this skill only applied to action games, specifically "shooter games" like
Halo. Strategy and role-playing games, did not have the same impact.

"The games are teaching them to learn how to learn, to learn how to solve new tasks rapidly," Green said.

The researchers tested two groups for a total of 50 hours.  One group spent 50 hours playing a strategy game while the other group played a shooter game. The subjects who played action video games were faster, yet just as accurate as the subjects who played strategy or role-playing games for the same duration of time.

Green said these video games are teaching people to become better at taking sensory data in, and translating it into correct decisions. 

"There is always some uncertainty about what is going on. Our eyes don’t take in everything and our ears don't either, so you take the sensory data that you have, and make a decision based on the probability of being right," said Green.

According to Ian Spence, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, the new findings are consistent with previous studies. 

"Perceptual functions are the various brain functions involved in seeing, hearing, smelling," stated Spence.

Spence added that in the future, researchers may be able to offer guidelines for game design that would retain the perceptual training features of first-person shooter games, without the violence that discourages some people from playing them.

The study suggests real-world applications for this research in the future. 

The U.S. armed forces has used video games for military training in the past.


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By Mojo the Monkey on 9/15/2010 5:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
There are actually other studies that suggest that strategy and RTS games improve complex problem solving and multi-tasking abilities... which makes sense if you're trying to keep track of unit production, uprage ladders, resource gathering, offense, defense, etc.

Looks like different types of games help with different things.

WoW helps with nothing, however.

By bighairycamel on 9/15/2010 5:45:10 PM , Rating: 2
RTS games definately improve macro management skills above all else, which can be a good trait for successful business management (to the proper degree).

As far as WoW, yes when 75% of players stand in fire while their screen flashes red and the entire monitor is consumed by flames while ear wrenching sounds are going off all around warning them of their impending doom, yet they still die, you know the probabilistic inference isn't quite working properly.

By Hieyeck on 9/16/2010 8:30:37 AM , Rating: 2
WoW teaches the ability to focus on mundane tasks while ignoring all other distractions perfectly.

Kind of like a job.

By MrBlastman on 9/16/2010 9:29:17 AM , Rating: 2
I'll buy that, for sure. RTS definitely improves complex thinking, planning and execution plus the ability to change operational structure on the fly. Especially games like Supreme Commander (before the addon) and StarCraft (1 and 2 though I haven't played 2 enough yet).

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