Action Video Games Cause You to Learn New Sensorimotor Skills More Quickly

First Posted: Oct 21, 2014 08:06 AM EDT

There's been a lot of debate over video games in the past. Some view them as "bad" for a person's health, while others tout their benefits. Yet it seems as if there is, at least, one benefit when it comes to playing action video games; it turns out that these games can bolster sensorimotor skills.

A new sensorimotor skill, such as learning to ride a bike or typing, often requires a new pattern of coordination between vision and motor movement. With these skills, people usually move from novice performance, characterized by a low degree of coordination, to expert performance, which involves a high degree of coordination. As a result of successful sensorimotor learning, a person can perform new tasks efficiently. But what effect does video game playing have on sensorimotor control?

In order to find out, the scientists set up two experiments. In the first one, 18 gamers and 18 non-gamers performed a manual tracking task. Using a computer mouse, the volunteers needed to keep a small green cursor at the center of a white square moving target which moved in a complicated patter that then repeated itself.

In the early stages, the gamers' performance was not significantly better than the non-gamers'. By the end of the experiment, all participants performed better as they learned the complex pattern of the target. Yet the gamers were significantly more accurate in following the repetitive motion than the non-gamers.

In another experiment, the researchers eliminated the learning component of the experiment. While they still required the volunteers to track the moving dot, the patterns of motion changed. In this case, neither the gamers nor the non-gamers improved. This, in particular, confirmed that learning was playing a key role and that the gamers were doing better.

The findings reveal how gaming can be used as a tool to improve certain skills and abilities. This provides a new avenue of research when it comes to using games as a teaching tool.

The findings are published in the journal Human Movement Science.

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