New research coming out of the University of Toronto shows that playing shooters and driving games for even a short amount of time seems to improve the ability to search for a target hidden among distractions in complex scenes. The study was conducted by psychology professor Ian Spence and PhD candidate Sijing Wu, who compared action videogame players and non-players on three visual search tasks. They found that the experienced players were better at it.
In a second experiment researchers chose 60 participants who had not played video games before and had them play for a total of 10 hours in one to two hour sessions. Twenty of the participants were randomly assigned to play Medal of Honor, 20 were selected to play Need for Speed and the final 20 played the puzzle game Ballance as a control group.
"After playing either the shooter or driving game for only 10 hours, participants were faster and more accurate on the three visual search tasks," says Wu. "However, the control participants — who played the puzzle game — did not improve."
"Recent studies in different labs, including here at the University of Toronto, have shown that playing first-person shooter videogames can enhance other aspects of visual attention," says psychology professor Ian Spence. "But no one has previously demonstrated that visual search is also improved."
"We have shown that playing a driving-racing game can produce the same benefits as a shooter game," adds Wu. "This could be very important in situations where we wish to train visual search skills. Driving games are likely to be more acceptable than shooting games because of the lower levels of violence."