Video Games Help Us Make Faster Decisions

Scientists from the University of Rochester have found that playing fast-paced action video games helps players make decisions 25 percent faster than normal, yet no less accurate.

We've long known that playing video games helps sharpen reflexes and motor skills, but a new study proves that gaming also has a strong effect on our cognitive abilities as well. Daphne Bavelier, Alexandre Pouget, and C. Shawn Green have authored a study that purports to show that video games could be used as training to increase reaction time in a wide variety of real-life situations.

How did they come up with their results? The first step was finding "dozens" of 18 to 25-year-olds that weren't already gamers. Once that herculean task was complete, they split the subjects into two groups. One group was subjected to 50 hours of fast-paced action games like Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament. The other group played 50 hours of strategy games like The Sims 2.

After the gaming sessions, participants had to complete several tasks set up by the researchers, generally by looking at a screen and determining the direction a group of dots was travelling. The action game players answered the questions 35 percent faster than players of The Sims 2, while getting just as many answers correct.

Meanwhile The Sims 2 players were 75 percent more likely to trap virtual people in a tiny room with no doors or windows, a figure that is pure assumption on my part.

"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."

To understand how the decision-making speed is enhanced, one needs to understand how the brain makes decisions. Humans are constantly taking in small pieces of visual or auditory information that is used to calculate possible responses to decisions in their heads. Eventually a person gathers enough information to make what they believe to be a correct decision.

"Decisions are never black and white," (Bavelier) 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 games simply help the players become more efficient at processing decision-making information.

Sure, they might seem like a bunch of Neanderthals when you meet them on Xbox Live, but rest assured, when an action gamer call your mother a whore, they decided to call your mother a whore faster than someone playing The Sims 2 would have.

Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions That Are No Less Accurate [Science Daily]