[NetBehaviour] Better living through video games?

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Feb 13 13:01:09 CET 2006


Better living through video games?

CAROLYN ABRAHAM

 From Thursday's Globe and Mail

When he snags downtime from his schoolwork, Ryerson University student 
Brad Evans gabs with friends, grooves to Kanye West on his MP3 player 
and races virtual hotrods on his Sony PlayStation. All at the same time.

Before you assume gadgets and video games fry the minds of the future, 
consider this: Canadian researchers are finding evidence that the 
high-speed, multitasking of the young and wireless can help protect 
their brains from aging.

A body of research suggests that playing video games provides benefits 
similar to bilingualism in exercising the mind. Just as people fluent in 
two languages learn to suppress one language while speaking the other, 
so too are gamers adept at shutting out distractions to swiftly switch 
attention between different tasks.

A new study of 100 university undergraduates in Toronto has found that 
video gamers consistently outperform their non-playing peers in a series 
of tricky mental tests. If they also happened to be bilingual, they were 
unbeatable.

"The people who were video game players were better and faster 
performers," said psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a research professor at 
York University. "Those who were bilingual and video game addicts scored 
best -- particularly at the most difficult tasks."

The York study, which tested subjects' responses to various misleading 
visual cues, is to be published next month in the Canadian Journal of 
Experimental Psychology. Three other studies published in the past two 
years have also concluded that action video games can lead to mental 
gains involving visual skills and short-term memory.

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