`Video games improve kids` decision-making skills`

Last Updated: Sep 13, 2010, 23:47 PM IST

New York: Although they are blamed for spoiling children`s time and studies, video games could be a training tool for the kids to make quick and right decisions, a new research has claimed.

Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester,
New York, discovered that those who play action video games
develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around
them, helping them improve their ability to make faster and
accurate decisions.

This also 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, said Daphne Bavelier, who led the
study.

For their study, appeared in the journal Current Biology,
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 and the
other group played 50 hours of the slow-moving strategy games.

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,
analyse what was going on and answer a simple question about
the action in as little time as possible.

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 per cent 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," 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."

The authors` 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 explained.

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 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 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
colour.

PTI