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Video Games Could Boost Certain Thinking Skills
Date:12/24/2009

Accuracy, speed can improve depending on how product is designed, study shows

THURSDAY, Dec. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Video games have been blamed for everything from promoting youth violence to contributing to childhood obesity, but new research might change the minds of parents who planned on passing by the video game aisle this holiday season.

A new study shows that playing video games can sharpen certain thinking skills, increasing cognitive speed in those who play action games and boosting cognitive accuracy in those who play puzzle-solving games.

The research, led by Rolf Nelson, a psychology professor at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., involved 20 students who first completed a spatial-location task, then played either an action game or a puzzle-solving game for an hour, after which they repeated the first task. The findings appear in the December issue of the journal Perception.

"Playing a game which requires very fast deployment of visual attention and motor movement could prime a strategy of speed over accuracy," explained Nelson, "while playing a game which emphasizes a slower, more thoughtful pace could prime the opposite pattern. The main point is that different kinds of video games engage different cognitive and perceptual skills, and there are measurable differences in their effects, even in the short term."

Similar results have been noted in previous research by Daphne Bavelier, of the University of Rochester in New York. She co-authored a study that showed video game players have improved hand-to-eye coordination, increased visual processing, stronger mental rotation skills and enhanced visuo-spatial memory.

But despite the beneficial aspects garnered from a session or two of gaming, Nelson said more research is needed before making video games part of a child's homework session. "One difficulty is that video game developers are in the entertainment industry, and the goa
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