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Video games speed up reaction time

U. ROCHESTER (US)—Playing action video games trains people to make the right decisions faster, according to a new study.

The research shows that video game players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, and this benefit doesn’t just make them better at playing video games, but improves a wide variety of general skills that can help with everyday activities like multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town.

Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester report in the journal Current Biology that video games could provide a potent training regimen for speeding up reactions in many types of real-life situations.

The researchers tested dozens of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not ordinarily video game players. They split the subjects into two groups. One group played 50 hours of the fast-paced action video games Call of Duty 2 and Unreal Tournament, and the other group played 50 hours of the slow-moving strategy game The Sims 2.

After this training period, all of the subjects were asked to make quick decisions in several tasks designed by the researchers. In the tasks, the participants had to look at a screen, analyze what was going on, and answer a simple question about the action in as little time as possible (i.e. whether a clump of erratically moving dots was migrating right or left across the screen on average).

In order to make sure the effect wasn’t limited to just visual perception, the participants were also asked to complete an analogous task that was purely auditory.

The action game players were up to 25 percent faster at coming to a conclusion and answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game playing peers.

“It’s not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster,” says Daphne 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.”

The neural simulations shed light on why action gamers have augmented decision making capabilities.

People make decisions based on probabilities that they are constantly calculating and refining in their heads, Bavelier explains. The process is called probabilistic inference.

The brain continuously accumulates small pieces of visual or auditory information as a person surveys a scene, eventually gathering enough for the person to make what they perceive to be an accurate decision.

“Decisions are never black and white,” she says. “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 video game players’ brains are more efficient collectors of visual and auditory information, and therefore arrive at the necessary threshold of information they need to make a decision much faster than non gamers, the researchers found.

The new study builds on previous work by Bavelier and colleagues that showed that video games improve vision by making players more sensitive to slightly different shades of color.

More news from the University of Rochester: http://rochester.edu/news/

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24 Comments

  1. FantaZ Games

    Great research. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding out about what tech can do to tweak cognitive & reflex skills. The research findings may be enough of a catalyst to get many industries to invest in training modules for their workers. Thanks for the news.

  2. Roy Niles

    But does this also give the person more confidence in the efficacy of short term thinking than is wise? There’s reason to believe that the tendency to jump to a conclusion is enhanced by these types of games, when often there are long term aspects of a problem that need considerations of a more abstract sort.

  3. Reuben

    Good research but not practical in third world countries because most employers do not invest in refreshing/servicing minds of employees yet they want high production .

  4. Reuben

    Good research but not practical in third world countries because most employers do not invest in refreshing/servicing minds of employees yet they want high production . 2) Affordability of these tools to a common employee is also a major issue

  5. Kevin

    GREAT! let’s game some more ;)

  6. nick

    i played counterstrike 1.6 professionally for a while and i can say that it doesn’t make your decision making skills better or worse, just faster. if you can’t make those long drawn out thoughts quick then you aren’t considered a good player at all. it’s possible that when if you’re still new to video games then you might make rash decisions, but that’s only because you’re not that experienced. the people that are prone to jumping to bad conclusions are still going to do that, that’s just who they are.

  7. Mike @ Megamind Video Games

    Does this mean if I played a fast paced video game for a while, then I could put together a jigsaw puzzle faster? Or does it mean if I played a strategy game for a long time I could do it faster?

  8. Carter

    in my science fair i tested reaction time, will platform and physical games affect reaction time an it is the same as what u are saying . in the tests i found that a physical games do better or what i tested wii sports.

  9. tristan cain

    playing black ops will make your reaction way faster because when i dont play for a while i get slow and dont react as fast but when i do play it i react way faster

  10. Yo Momma

    Thank you this helped me a lot :)

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    Awesome study! I’ve been wondering if this would affect anything, and you guys answered all of my questions.

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    makes sense

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    This is cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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