I’ve never bought into the “video games make kids violent” argument. Newsflash- kids did violent things well before Grand Theft Auto was invented. In general I believe that video games have become a scapegoat for lack of parenting (especially given the fact that someone over 17 must purchase the game for the child). However, new research shows that video games could actually improve decision making.
The study involved a serious of tests between gamers and non-gamers, and found that gamers can make decisions quickly and with little information. They are able to make inferences quickly and with the same level of accuracy as someone who waits for more information until they are secure with their choices.
Then, to rule out the possibility that gamers are naturally more gifted decision makers, the researchers had non-gamers play 50 hours of action games and gave them the same decision making tests. They found that after playing the action games, the non-gamers had improved their decision making times.
The researchers theorize that action video games might create stronger connections between the part of the brain that collects information and the side that synthesizes and evaluates that information to make a decision. In essence this makes them more efficient decision makers.
University of Rochester researcher Daphne Bavelier believes the implications for this study translate into critical life skills. “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.”
This is great news for all of the moms and dads out there that stood in line for the midnight release of Halo: Reach on Monday. You did your part to improve your child’s decision making skills.
If we take the information learned from this study to the next level, how can we help improve higher level decision making (critical thinking) through video games?
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.