Video games lead to faster decisions that are no less accurate

Video games lead to faster decisions that are no less accurate
A test subject attempts to determine whether the erratically moving dots on a computer screen are moving left or right on average during a study at the University of Rochester Aug. 24, 2010. This was one task used by UR professor of brain and cognitive science Daphne Bavelier and colleagues in their study, "Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games", to determine whether playing video games makes people faster decision makers while having no detrimental effect on accuracy. Credit: J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester

Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester have discovered that playing action video games trains people to make the right decisions faster. The researchers found that video game players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, and this benefit doesn't just make them better at playing video games, but improves a wide variety of general skills that can help with everyday activities like multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town.

In an upcoming study in the journal , authors Daphne Bavelier, Alexandre Pouget, and C. Shawn Green report that video games could provide a potent training regimen for speeding up reactions in many types of real-life situations.

Video games have grown in popularity to the point where 68 percent of American households have members that play them, according to a 2009 report by the Entertainment Software Association.

The researchers tested dozens of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not ordinarily players. They split the subjects into two groups. One group played 50 hours of the fast-paced action video games "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament," and the other group played 50 hours of the slow-moving strategy game "The Sims 2."

After this training period, all of the subjects were asked to make quick decisions in several tasks designed by the researchers. In the tasks, the participants had to look at a screen, analyze what was going on, and answer a simple question about the action in as little time as possible (i.e. whether a clump of erratically moving dots was migrating right or left across the screen on average). In order to make sure the effect wasn't limited to just , the participants were also asked to complete an analogous task that was purely auditory.

The action game players were up to 25 percent faster at coming to a conclusion and answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game playing peers.

Video games lead to faster decisions that are no less accurate
Participants in a University of Rochester study, "Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games", by UR professor of brain and cognitive science Daphne Bavelier played 50 hours of video games over multiple weeks. Players who played action games like Call of Duty 2 (pictured here) made quicker decisions than those who played slow-paced strategy games like The Sims without sacrificing accuracy. Credit: J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester

"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."

The authors' neural simulations shed light on why action gamers have augmented decision making capabilities. People make decisions based on probabilities that they are constantly calculating and refining in their heads, Bavelier explains. The process is called probabilistic inference. The brain continuously accumulates small pieces of visual or auditory information as a person surveys a scene, eventually gathering enough for the person to make what they perceive to be an accurate decision.

"Decisions are never black and white," she 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 video game players' brains are more efficient collectors of visual and auditory information, and therefore arrive at the necessary threshold of information they need to make a decision much faster than non gamers, the researchers found.

The new study builds on previous work by Bavelier and colleagues that showed that video games improve vision by making players more sensitive to slightly different shades of color.

Citation: Video games lead to faster decisions that are no less accurate (2010, September 13) retrieved 16 October 2019 from
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Sep 13, 2010
Then there is the other side of the coin.

Modern FPS (First Person Shooters) are as good as the better modern military training programs.

When a 'gamer' kid goes rampant with a gun at school.

Even trained marksmen would have a VERY difficult time beating the kind of score that can come out of such training. In one shooting involving such a kid, one who had never handled a real gun before... 4 out of 7 shots were accurate head shots..and a moving, screaming, running crowd.

So, in the end there may be a real world advantage to the 'FPS' created decision making processes....but not necessarily always the kind that anyone outside of the military would want a kid to use -or have.

Sep 13, 2010
Don't blame the video games, blame the parenting. I've played your quoted "FPS" since I was 15 and i've never had any urges to pick up a gun and start shooting.

How about asking how that gamer kid got a gun in the first place? How about asking why he did it?

As for your reasoning that a trained marksmen would have a very (?) difficult time beating a kid ...please.

Sep 13, 2010
Also these and other fast-paced games may somewhat reduce one's ability to pay attention to things requiring longer thought, such as lectures, studying etc. But I dont think its necessarily permanent.

Sep 13, 2010
Unfortunately "The Sims 2" is not an accurate strategy game to be compared with even though it is popular in the united states. As well it matters if the games were played online or not because when you are interacting with other people you are forced to have your full attention on the screen.

I say the test needs a redo.

Sep 13, 2010
I love the test.

All those "wasted" hours are going on my resume. Wohoo!

Sep 13, 2010
Well The Sims 2 isnt even a strategy game, its a sim. Hence the name "The Sims"...

They should have used Civ 5 or something instead if they wanted a slower moving macro oriented RTS.

Racing games, FPS, RTS (like Starcraft) force you to pay attention to lots of details, to focus constantly if you want to be any good. I would say it increases awareness and response easily. Even tetris would bolster such skills.

Since there arent commercials, video games ought to reduce ADD. If you can focus for 2 hours on one game, the only reason you cant focus on school work is because its boring in comparison.

And if you've ever shot a real is a far cry from pulling a controller trigger. No way a kid will be as accurate as a soldier who is used to it.

Accuracy in MW2 at my best is 16%. I've had a friend at almost 20%. I imagine thats poor compared to real life, where the bullets mean something.

Sep 13, 2010
I don't think the study ever suggested playing action based video games is better for you than playing sports. It's simply a study saying that reactional decision making is faster for those who play these games.

Besides, it's hard to find a good tennis match that I can play at 11pm in real life.

Sep 13, 2010
you know what -- play the sims with 6 people on fast and keep them all happy organized and going to work and you will be multitasking faster than any FPS ever thought of. The issue wasn't the game it was that a FPS has a predefined timescale built in -- you walk into the room and trigger immediate reactions in real time , you can't slow those AI reactions down like the sims -- now set the speed on the sims to a moderately high level, with increased complexity like more family members and redo the test.

Sep 13, 2010
Just for the guy that said 16% in ww2.. that is probably close. The Game sighted in the article "COD" keeps all these stats. most players are in the range of 11-18% shots fired vs. hits made.

Sep 13, 2010
Home fps shooters support the idea that the world is getting increasingly wicked. If the fps shooters were in a public arcade hall where kids could play and compete is much different than having the game at home.

I would never had thought in my lifetime that 100 players could compete lets say in Arma 2 military shooter game at home. Nvidia has also gone military?

There is also Nvidia 3d scope vision that can be used with Call of Duty 4 series they should compare 3d vs. regular? Interesting to find out how that is observed in science.

Sep 13, 2010

Accuracy in MW2 at my best is 16%. I've had a friend at almost 20%. I imagine thats poor compared to real life, where the bullets mean something.

The bullets in real life are generally about or even less accurate. The estimate of bullets fired during World War II is 3 trillion. This is compared to 60 million people killed (this is including civilian death, as well as deaths by famine, etc). Most fire, in combat situations, is cover fire. So 16% accuracy is actually fairly high.

Sep 14, 2010
FPS games are awesome, I try to play a few hours a week just as mental exercise and it works. Major time killer though so you need to check your addiction at the door.

Sep 14, 2010
There is very little relationship between twitch skills and the decision making process. If the subject is being asked to press a button repeatedly, perhaps there is something to be said about FPS gaming's benefit on button pressing.

However, if the subject is being asked to describe the components of a complex system like a government or a law, I don't think FPS "skilz" are going to help you.

Most of human decision making is definitely of the NON-twitch variety, and requires consideration, discernment, and careful foresight. In order to be successful, you need to understand the environment in which you live, the relationship of the governing powers within the environment, and the probable outcome of your activities within the environment.

Button mashing and shape identification is best left to trained dolphins.

Sep 14, 2010
I'm going to go ahead and say you either haven't played many FPS games or you're just not that good.

Being "good" at an FPS requires the "need to understand the environment in which you live, the relationship of the governing powers within the environment, and the probable outcome of your activities within the environment".

You're thinking of very specific planned out decisions in life when you refer to things like government and law. human brains are like computers that are making fast "unplanned" decisions all the time.

As an example, think of driving. While you drive you make plenty of quick decisions when performing tasks such as changing lanes, merging, how to react to the yellow light based on the position and speed of your car... it goes on and on.

Sep 14, 2010
oh my bad you where talking about the game not ww2 lol. mw2 not the same thing.

Sep 15, 2010
@gwargh - thanks for the data. My current accuracy is 14.1% (looked last night) and that is total hits vs. misses, not simply kills.

I'd be interested in seeing at least estimate numbers on total hits with intent to hit (i.e. no cover fire) while in combat.

1 out of 3 hits tends to kill on average from bullets across multiple wars.
Neat article:

It's hard to compare MW2 vs real combat though, esp since they nerf weapons in MW2 like the AA12 and its absent of many combat stresses in real life.

A trained soldier within the intended range of his weapon, wont miss 80% of the time though on an open target.

Sep 15, 2010
I know you FPS "vets" think your games are stressful, but as an actual vet, I'll tell you that it's not even close. Light years. (I played them a ton before and after my real experience) Ever been in a car accident? Multiply the peak of that experience by 3 then imagine it lasting, without fade, for an entire firefight.

When you KNOW the other guy wants you dead and you know he's as juiced as you are, for most trained soldiers extreme accuracy and decision making is second nature. You'd think you might get the jitters or something. No. A weird calm takes over. You'll never have the kind of focus like you have when you might really die any second. There is no sim that can duplicate that.

I'd be very interested to see a similar study on soldiers that were minutes removed from a firefight.

Sep 18, 2010
I played Unreal Tournament myself at a very high level for years. My mind has never been as clear as when I was at the top of my game.
You had to keep track of an overall strategy, while timing to perfection multiple items which had 27.secs and 55 sec respawn times. Not easy while you have the opponent doing the same, it becomes a huge game of chess on top of the aiming and fighting skills required. You learn rely on your sub-conscious, which is FAR better at decision making and pretty much everything than our conscious mind.
Also, the more 'in the zone' you get, the slower the game feels. Time does slow down, a bit like when you're involved in an accident, you take in more 'data'.

Ofcourse it's going to be different to being in REAL danger, but it certainly helps in every day life in many ways.
I've been lucky that these skills have net me a fair amount of cash as well, so I'm all for FPS games.

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