New research coming out of the University of Massachusetts’ psychology department reveals that casual game players get some cognitive benefits from playing games on a regular basis.
"Most of what we hear about video games concerns their detrimental effects on players. This study shows that people perceive many positive effects, even though the games can be addictive," said UMass professor Susan Whitbourne, who conducted the study along with undergraduates Stacy Ellenberg and Kyoko Akimoto.
The study, published in the December 2013 issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, is based on an online survey of 10,000 adults between the ages of 18-80, who were asked about their gaming habits related to Bejeweled Blitz, and allowed them to offer extensive comments. The main purpose of the study was to learn about patterns of game play among adults as a first step towards learning if casual video games can help adults improve their cognitive functions, according to Whitbourne.
The majority of those surveyed said the primary reason for playing the game was that it allowed them to compete against people they knew. This was especially true in the 18-29 year-old age group.
Secondary reasons for playing the game varied based on age group: among adults ages 30-58, the game was played to relieve stress; and adults ages 60 and older said they played for the mental challenges. Younger respondents said the "perceived benefit of playing" was that it made them feel more mentally alert and improved their memory; while older subjects said they perceived the benefits to be an improvement in visuospatial ability and reaction time.
Surprisingly, older respondents reported playing the game more than their younger counterparts.
Whitbourne and her team are currently studying if casual games can benefit attentional abilities and quicker performance in older adults. Apart from this, “it appears that these games help adults feel socially connected,” Whitbourne said.