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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Action Video Games Help Decision-Making

Fast-Paced Video Games Help People Make Quicker Decisions, Researchers Say
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept 13, 2010 -- Action video games teach you to think and act quickly and accurately inside and outside of the box, according to a new study in Current Biology.

People who played action video games for 50 hours were just as accurate and significantly faster at making decisions, compared to gamers who played strategy-oriented or role-playing video games for the same amount of time. And this prowess was evident on non-game-related tasks that called for quick decision-making, the study showed.

"Action video games are fast-paced, and there are peripheral images and events popping up, and disappearing," says study researcher C. Shawn Green, PhD, a postdoctoral associate at the Kersten Computational Vision Lab at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Green was at the University of Rochester, N.Y., when the new study was conducted.

"These video games are teaching people to become better at taking sensory data in, and translating it into correct decisions," he says. 

In brain labs, this ability is called “probabilistic inference,” and it refers to how we process the information we have when we need to make a snap decision.

"There is always some uncertainty about what is going on," Green says. "Our eyes don’t take in everything and our ears don't either, so you take the sensory data that you have, and make a decision based on the probability of being right.”

Action Games Improve Decision-Making Speed

In the new study of 18- to 25-year-old non-gamers, one group played 50 hours of action-packed video games, while the other played a slow-moving strategy game for the same amount of time. Participants were then asked to perform two specific decision-making tasks in the lab. The first task involved determining whether a bunch of moving white dots were going right or left. The second task measured their ability to tell if a single pitched tone was heard in their right or left ear while wearing a pair of headphones that emitted white noise.

"Action video games help you make faster decisions across the board because you are learning to translate what you are seeing or hearing into correct probability," Green says.

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