Research: Action Games Can Help Develop Increased Visual Sensitivity

New research from Duke University published in the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics finds that first-person shooters (or action games) help gamers to develop increased visual sensitivity that can be used to react quickly to stimuli in their field of vision. Games mentioned include Call of Duty and BioShock. The more immersed they are in the self-contained world of a video game, the better gamers become at quickly making "probabilistic inferences" about what certain visual indicators might lead to, even with limited information.

The study is based on polling data and tests from 125 participants who were around 21 years old, and had participated in a much larger research study in the Duke University Visual Cognition Lab related to video games.

Participants answered questions about their video game habits and preferences, which researchers used to classify them on a scale from non-video game player or intensive action video game player. Participants were also put through a computerized visual sensory memory task that consisted of eight black uppercase letters in a circular arrangement flashed on a gray background for only 105 milliseconds, or one-tenth of a second. Researchers adjusted the variable delay in a range between 13 milliseconds to 2.56 seconds, after which a red line appeared pointing to the former location of one of the eight letter locations, remaining visible until the participant reported which letter had been in that cued location.

The test showed that participants who played action video games more frequently performed better on the task than those who didn't play video games frequently. Game players were also more likely to remember items from the test than non-gamers.

Lead author Greg Appelbaum says that visual memory tends to decay rapidly because the brain sorts what is and is not important in the visual field, and discards whatever it deems is not necessary to retain. While gamers get rid of unused visual information at a similar rate as non-gamers, they also seem to have a higher capacity for visual information from the beginning, according to Appelbaum.

Appelbaum believes that "it is possible that the gamers see more immediately, and they are better able make better correct decisions from the information they have available."

Appelbaum hopes that researchers conducting further studies in this area might be able to identify specific brain regions that function differently between the two groups using data from MRI brain scans.

Source: Science Daily


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