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Study: Relation Between Video Games And Attention Disorders

We've seen more than a few recent studies that have turned out in the gamer's favor but this one...well, not so much.

According to GamePolitics, the latest bit of research from Iowa State University documents a distinct link between "frequent" video game playing and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The title of the study was, "Video Games and Cognitive Control," and it was designed to test the affect of game playing on two types of cognitive activity: proactive and reactive. Proactive is apparently a "preparation" mechanism, where we get ourselves ready for what's coming up around the next corner. Reactive is exactly what it sounds like. Now, there were two groups - the "frequent" players and the "occasional" players - and both were asked to perform the Stroop task. This tests both aforementioned attention types with brain waves and responses; for the exact details of this test, head through the link above. As for the results, while reactive control was similar in both groups, the "frequent" gamers exhibited "significantly diminished proactive attention." From the press release:

"These data reveal a reduction in brain activity and disruption of behavior associated with sustained attention ability related to video game experience, which converges with other recent findings indicating that there is a relation between frequent video game playing and ADD."

They admitted the study had "a few limitations," but they said the results should refute claims that game playing somehow "improves attention." For the record, I don't believe that's what others have been claiming; they talk more about increased reaction time and even better puzzle-solving abilities, for example. Personally, I'm not surprised at the results of the study, as there seems to be an ever-increasing number of gamers out there who can't even sit through a 2-minute cut-scene or 10-second loading screen without becoming annoyed. At this point, I wonder what might happen if we ever had to go back to reading text rather than simply listening to voices...these days, I think most gamers would just skip it all.

Of course, I've always been in the minority. Considering what I read, I seriously doubt that 25 years of gaming has affected my attention. I do believe, however, that it can affect the attention spans of younger people.

10/15/2009 10:47:53 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (58 posts)

Imagi
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:08:33 AM
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Was this a good article? never made it to the end ;)

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www
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:15:25 AM

Lol, of course we all hate reports bashing we gamers but for the sake of Ben, I read it to the end. I could swear I wouldn't have read this elsewhere! But in the end I care less what these book smarts think on their project works!

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www
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:13:06 AM
Reply

All I know for a fact is that, video games improve hand-eye coordination.

Last edited by www on 10/15/2009 11:15:56 AM

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LegendaryWolfeh
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:14:01 AM
Reply

^ ditto

Honestly I really can't think of anything that would even make these two relate to one another, in games don't you HAVE to pay attention or else you'll die?

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NiteKrawler
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 1:44:17 PM

Exactly. Hell, I don't know if I have ever paid attention to anything more than I have with Demon's Souls. How do they test this? If you can't make it all the way through Citizen Kane without blinking, you have ADD. How much anyone pays attention depends on the situation.

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bearbobby
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:14:13 AM
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As I was reading this the same thoughts went through my head as yours, Ben. I've never heard anyone claim that video games increased someone's attention span, but I'm a believer that gaming can increase reaction time and promote puzzle solving skills as well as spatial awareness.

And yes, I'm disappointed in some of the younger generation with the apparent inability to sit through a cut-scene and who bi*** about a load time longer than 5 seconds. It's very obvious these kids grew up after the golden age of gaming. Back in the day it was all text based games. And even after that you were lucky to have a cut scene and usually you couldn't skip it.

Those damn kids better stay off my lawn!

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Fane1024
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 3:46:37 PM

correction: DECREASE reaction time

Last edited by Fane1024 on 10/16/2009 3:47:03 PM

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Kiwi of DOOM
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:18:53 AM
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Ugh, i hate to admit it but i think these guys are right. Half the people i know who play 'frequently' said that MGS4 was the lamest game ever and that it 'might as well be a movie'. Even if i agree with them for agreements sake and say 'but the story was great, and you have to admit those cutscenes were well made' more than half of them will say they didn't even bother to finish the game or simply didn't watch them. It's a shame really, i could go on forever, but at least not all of us are like that. Personally i've played at least 3-4 hours of games a day for the past 6 years or so (usually more) but i'm not fidgeting and twitching through every cutscene.

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DarkManX
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 5:46:54 PM

I was told I had ADD at one point and cut scenes are some of my favorite things about video games these days, lets me sink into the story that much more, Anyone who said MGS4 sucked needs to understand not all games are pointless graphics allowing you to do nothing but run down hookers and shoot people. Don't get me wrong I love GTA series for just that reason but I love the stories along with it. I love being in a virtual movie or life and knowing my actions can and will effect the world and what happens to its inhabitants...learn to enjoy the game not just rush through it and move on, otherwise your wasting your money.

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napoleon85
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:20:08 AM
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Dumbest hypothesis I have ever read. If all the videogame geeks in my college didn't have 4.0 GPA I would believe it, but it's not the case.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:22:24 PM

Intelligent people can have attention problems.

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bigrailer19
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:32:51 PM

i think everyone has attention problems.

in some circumstances i hate reading books because my mind wonders when doing so, but i always turn on subtitles in video games so i have something to read along with lol.

in my comment below i may not have shown that i blv everyone has some sort of add or atleast an attention problem of some sort. but i think thats true.

Last edited by bigrailer19 on 10/15/2009 12:36:57 PM

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WolfCrimson
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:27:24 AM
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I don't think that it's mostly gaming that causes attention disorders in kids,i think it's actually this faster-paced world we live in, you know, everything is "fast" and can be acquired "now", and they didn't learn the value of patience. If anything makes them wait for more than 2 seconds then they lose interest and move on to something that doesn't. Of course this is all just opinion :)

Last edited by WolfCrimson on 10/15/2009 11:27:49 AM

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nogoat23
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:24:55 PM

Agreed. Society and technology as a whole is moving in that direction. It's not just gaming.

ovens -> microwaves
books -> movies
researching in a library -> on the internet

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Jawknee
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:33:07 AM
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This makes no sense. I have a lot of friend who were told they had ADD before console games were even popular. Also, don't people who have ADD have a hard time paying attention? Wouldnt they get bored with a game real quick and move onto other things when their ADD kicked in?

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Highlander
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:13:58 PM

No, because a videogame is always changing, and constantly rewarding effort. Videogames are specifically designed to provide a very immediate feedback of reward for in game effort, as well as supplying a stream of new/different experiences and challenges. Video games are perfectly designed for ADD people.

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LowKey
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 12:01:14 AM

I've had ADD since I was 5 years old. I am 26 now and my ADD is still pretty bad. video games are one of the only things that can hold my attention, next to cooking. But there may be some truth to the link between ADD development and video games. I have been playing video games since I was 2 (loved my dads caleco and atari). So not everything people say about these kinds of links are bull plop. This subject touches a very delicate area for me.

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DarkManX
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 5:53:51 PM

I played EQOA on the ps2 for a longtime and I noticed something about that game, kids didn't like it since you had to build a toon from scratch and even if you did hit max level you still had to put in hours of game time to make them good enough to be considered good...so some video games maybe...but the true D&D style mmorpgs weed those people out so those who think they are to slow have ADD? IDK this "study" seems to support that opinion.

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Lemon_Saint
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:45:11 AM
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I have been playing video games for decades, (yes, DECADES!), and am currently in school for a second degree,(with a 4.0), I work full time, I practice three nights a week, and I play out on the weekends, (sometimes during the week also). If this study is true, than I am ither a demi-god, (I am not), or this "study" is total rubbish ...

... hmmm, demi-god .....

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NULL
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 11:51:53 AM
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person in my year at school has ADD and goes on about FF and No more heroes all the time.

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Banky A
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 10:15:27 PM

Final Fantasy probably keeps him happy.
I know they make me happy ;)

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bOnEs
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:06:56 PM
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everyone has some form of ADD... be it minor or major, we all suffer from short attention spans at times... this study doesn't surprise me at all...

what's surprising is them trying to link ADD to video games... ADD is linked to just about everything like school, work and relationships... not just video games... you can find an ADD problem in just about any field you look...

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Highlander
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:50:30 PM

Indeed.

ADD is simply slightly different wiring in the head. Everyone has slightly different wiring in their head, it's what makes each of us individual. However some are more different from others.

I could write a 15000 word essay on this topic. Let's just leave it with the thought that many learning/developmental/social disorders involve various combinations of behavioral, social, biochemical and emotional problems and symptoms. Medicine labels lots of combinations of symptoms with various names. Of course for those that medicine misses, we have other labels, slow, anti-social, difficult, smart-ass, doofus, pain in the ..., etc...

The point being whether Medicine labels them or not, everyone has some combination of wiring in their head that makes them more or less attentive, more or less socially aware, more or less aggressive, more or less intelligent, more or less optimistic/depressed, and so on and so forth. Each of us is different, and each has a unique combination of facets. There is a danger in anyone taking a medical diagnosis as somehow negative. Being ADD is no more negative than being a certifiable genius.

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fluffer nutter
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 4:27:29 PM

I have ADD when a hip hop track or country tune is overheard...

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therabbitkinge
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:07:30 PM
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Well we've been slapped with every other negative stigma in terms of "normal" human development, why not also give us ADD T^T Its a shame though I love observing every inch of a game but I guess general studies really will be the death of gamer morale T^T

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Highlander
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:10:47 PM
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Well, as a fully paid up and diagnosed member of the ADD club I would say this.

Playing video games is almost like therapy to ADD sufferers. During a typical day a person with ADD is subject to continual pressure because they have difficulty maintaining focus on the things that they 'should' focus on. They suffer anxiety because they continually stress about not being focused when they 'should' be. Also, we ADD folks tend to procrastinate, so projects and assignments are left to the last moment, when we finally get that adrenaline rush of panic that motivates us to work like crazy to finish the assignment. This is stressful. Stress leads to a desire to do something pleasurable, something that gives a sense of reward.

The flipside to the inattentiveness is that we ADD folks also have the ability to hyper-focus on things that interest us, especially something that provides the pleasure and feeling of being rewarded. It could be a book, a TV show, a movie or anything. We could drift off on a flight of fancy in our head, or into a video game. Once the hyper-focus locks in it's like we zone out. Hours can pass without us realizing it. Anyone who knows someone with moderate or severe ADD knows this state.

Personally I find that as a person with ADD the best kind of work or experience is the kind that brings nearly instant feedback. Positive feedback, even just the feeling of success conveys a sense of being rewarded for my efforts. Long term projects with repetitive work, and little to no feedback along the way are like torture because there is almost no reward for my efforts. The more short term goals with immediate feedback there are the better.

Video games are simply perfect in this regard as the whole concept of a video game is to provide an immediate reward. There is a ton of research into the reward system in the brain. Video games are popular because they feed that reward cycle, the player is immediately rewarded for an accomplishment. Recent research into ADD has shown that contrary to earlier theory, ADD patients are not less sensitive to reward frequency, they are more sensitive. So a video game where you are constantly challenged with new tasks and rewarded with a better score, new medals, trophies or achievements is the perfect storm for an ADD patient. It reinforces the immediacy and frequency of rewards.

So, I'm not sure what this study was trying to say. It's almost obvious that ADD patients would enjoy video games. It's well, known that ADD sufferers are no less intelligent or able than those who are not ADD. It almost seems as though the IOWA study is trying to implicate video games as somehow affecting (detrimentally) the cognitive processes in the brain of ADD patients. I don't think I would agree with that at all. If anything, the reward feedback that a video game provides is like a therapeutic drug, facilitating less stimulating work during the halo period that follows the reward cycle.

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Diggity Dan
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:33:33 PM

"It almost seems as though the IOWA study is trying to implicate video games as somehow affecting (detrimentally) the cognitive processes in the brain of ADD patients."

Exactly. I think everyone missed this key point: Corrleation does not imply causation. Just because people who are frequent gamers tend to have lowered forms of attention doesnt at all mean that one is CAUSING the other. For all they know, people with ADD are simply more likely to seek out games than others. The cause and effect is in reverse here. Same thinggoing on with violence and video games.

In a releated study, we found that 99% of fatal auto accidents involved drivers wearing shoes. Clearly, we need to ban shoes while driving to eliminate these risks.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 2:47:11 PM

For the record, I don't think they're trying to prove causation; only correlation. I'd have to see the full findings, but no researchers go into studies like this thinking the results will prove causation. That takes many more studies and a lot more time.

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Diggity Dan
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 4:29:30 PM

"For the record, I don't think they're trying to prove causation; only correlation. I'd have to see the full findings, but no researchers go into studies like this thinking the results will prove causation. That takes many more studies and a lot more time. "

That could very well be true (I didnt read tje study either), but then I ask you "What valuable data have they got from the study?". It's the same as my hypothetical shoe-wearing and fatal car accidents study.

I dont know if this is the case here, but often these "studies" are commisioned by mouthpieces for some special interest group. They dont come out and SAY there's a causal relationship , but they carefully omit certain data and use language to convey that impression to the public (that doesnt know any better to be critical).

This is a common strategy from special interest groups. Do you guys rememebr the one that concluded that children who view more TV ads are more likely to be obese?
Whoopty-do! Everyone thought it must mean that watching ads makes kids eat more, when in fact chidleren that eat more, just tend to watch more TV.

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Kangasfwa
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 7:59:10 PM

I was wondering where my new found trophy whoredom came from.

Thanks Highlander

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 12:50:02 AM

Diggity Dan: I know there are always a lot of conspiracy theories concerning just about every study ever done, but having been in that setting in the past, I can promise you that much of that is just hearsay and rumor.

The bottom line is that "special interest groups" very rarely have anything to do with real studies like this one. Such groups don't have anywhere near as much pull in the scientific community as some people would like to believe. ;)

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Diggity Dan
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 8:17:31 AM

Ben: "Personally, I'm not surprised at the results of the study, as there seems to be an ever-increasing number of gamers out there who can't even sit through a 2-minute cut-scene or 10-second loading screen without becoming annoyed.------ I do believe, however, that it can affect the attention spans of younger people."

You seem to be drawing a cause and effect assumption from the results. I dont think your assumption is at all warranted. If I understand the study properly, it tells us ZERO about cause and effect. It only shows that attention and gaming are linked. So what? Fatal car accidents and shoe-wearing are also linked. People with "normal" attention span may play games for years and years and have no change in their attention span. This study doesnt tell us anything.

BTW, having results of scientific studies manipulated or misrepresented by others isnt really a conspricay theory, that's pretty much everyday politics. I did mention some of them being funded by certain groups, althoguh I admit that is quite rare anymore. To be fair to your point, the problem isnt becessarily with the studies themselves, but with the media that are reporting them and misrepresented the findings to others.

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Fane1024
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 4:05:58 PM

@ Dan

You made the point I was going to make about causation. Unfortunately, your example is not a propos, since the people in fatal accidents aren't MORE likely to be wearing shoes than other people.

This study (apparently) shows a higher incidence of ADD among frequent gamers. Which, as you said, doesn't demonstrate which came first.

Last edited by Fane1024 on 10/16/2009 4:10:40 PM

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fatelementality
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:12:48 PM
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Who are you people? What is this? Where am I? I want food..........NOW!!!!!!!

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:22:33 PM

HA.

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Banky A
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 10:16:10 PM

Now??!! Food!

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bigrailer19
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:23:54 PM
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i hate articles like this...

i hear you out loud and clear Ben on more than one subject you mentioned.
first off, i do believe and have heard studies that vids. improve hand eye coord. puzzle solving, and attention to detail.

One can argue that everyone is dif. and whos to say that some of these people didnt have add to start, did they even mention that possibility. and what were the age of these participants?

I can see a younger kid adapting add MAYBE. but even playing games as a youngin til now where i cant necessarily say im old, think in no way has gaming affected my attention. in fact i think its helped in most cases.

i think this whole thing is bogus and is irrelevant. now im not saying that for some people it cant happen. but for the most part i know more people who game and dont have add that i can notice, or atleast a major case, than people who dont game and are no smarter nor do they have better attention paying skills! ;) see what i did there! n e way bottom line all these studies make me sick. why people are so worried about it is rediculous. i know there is concern out there, but its a hobby for most people and its away to enjoy some free time. 4 the hard core who play cod 22 hours a day well maybe they are a little less social but they are definately still paying attention to something anyway!



Last edited by bigrailer19 on 10/15/2009 12:29:19 PM

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SkantDragon
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:27:29 PM
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ADD is such a crock. It's how they define creativity as some sort of bad mental condition.

Yes, there are examples of people with extreme ADD where it's debilitating. But outside of those extremes, this is something doctors are making money diagnosing a large section of the human race with.

It's no surprise to see that bull being combined with the anti-video game bull.

Creative people like video games.

Imagine that.

Someone should write it up as a bad thing right away! </sarcasm>

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Highlander
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 12:55:58 PM

ADD is not a crock, ADD is a spectrum disorder that has historically been both misunderstood and misdiagnosed.

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Gone
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 1:28:28 PM
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So if a person is impatient, then they must have ADD?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 2:48:01 PM

No, there's a distinct difference between people who are simply impatient and people who - on a chemical and biological level - can't keep their attention fixed on any one thing for an extended period of time.

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Highlander
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 3:21:14 PM

Indeed Ben, Indeed.

Comparing impatience to ADD is a bit like comparing a heavy rain shower to a category 5 hurricane.

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Gone
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 5:59:41 PM

Sorry my bad. I guess there are different levels of ADD. I have seen a lot of kids get spanked for not sitting still or doing bad in school for not focusing. Some parents don't understand what is ADD.

Last edited by Gone on 10/15/2009 6:03:22 PM

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Highlander
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 10:31:34 PM

@Sonic

Actually, I agree with your last post 100%. As you say "Some parents don't understand what is ADD." This is very true. Sadly most primary care physicians don't really understand it very well either. The only people prescribing meds for ADD or giving diagnoses should be qualified and certified psychologists.

ADD is very much over diagnosed. A lot of kids who have relatively mild symptoms could easily cope with better parenting and educational support. However it's easier for teachers and parents to run to a Doctor and demand a diagnosis, get a pill, and forget about it. This is not the answer to the problem.

Parents need better skills, because there is a world of difference between having an energetic child who can't sit still, or is talkative, and having an ADD child. It almost seems as though parents forget that kids are impulsive chatty and fully of energy. Instead of learning to parent their children, a lot of parents run to the doctor bleating about ADD, get a diagnosis and a prescription, and blame everything on their child's disability. That is lazy and dishonest and doesn't serve the children well at all.

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G8GTdriver
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 2:27:17 PM
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Could it be the people in the "frequent" group already had a more severe case of ADD?
If impatient with games = ADD then sign me up, especially after playing games with little or no load time NFS Shift is killin me. But my ADD diagnosed brother has no problem with it and is pretty far along in the game. Me? I bounce from game to game, rarely finishing a game within a few months of buying it, in fact its sometimes a year plus. Is that a type ADD?

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fluffer nutter
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 4:30:07 PM

What's with the complaints of load times with NfS: Shift? I put in a massive amount of hours into that game and didn't once have a complaint about load times. I would like to know why my car colors would keep changing on their own, though. That was frustrating.

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Scarecrow
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 5:18:57 PM
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Pros and cons basically

Gamers do tend to have great reactions and are probably more open-minded than non-gamers. Also, I think they are very artistic, or at least artistic-minded.

But yeah don't think this study means anything.

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Banky A
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 10:24:48 PM

Not FPS and violence-only gamers ^_^
(well the violence can lead to artistic visions, but that's another story)

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tes37
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 5:35:42 PM
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While I believe ADD is real, studies like this don't help. I know people that have their kids on medications claiming they have ADD when they actually have a discipline problem. A news broadcast several months ago stated that the overuse of ADD meds are having very harmful effects on people, especially children.

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Kangasfwa
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 8:04:40 PM

ADD is totally real. It's just that few people have the real thing. And I actually felt better mentally--like my mind was free to be itself--once I stopped taking meds.

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Wage SLAVES
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 7:53:03 PM
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You made a great connection in the article. It seems to be a majority of younger gamers that want that explosion, action, and fireworks in any order but with no lul. I guess that is why so many people criticized the MGS4 cut scenes and reported them to be half hour in length each...

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Banky A
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 10:27:13 PM
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Yeah I'm one of the good guys.
I try make the game as long as possible, as best as I can.

Man I miss the days of reading through FFVII and VIII with nothing but the music of Nobuo Uematsu and the text-speech of the characters ;)

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Banky A
Thursday, October 15, 2009 @ 10:31:39 PM

I know ADD and ADHD are serious.

But I feel bad, because I joke around about some girls guy in my class having ADD because they're always shouting and being idiot kids LOL. There's a line that separates the Happy to the just fricken' Annoying.

They're not that academically inclined.

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LowKey
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 12:09:28 AM

Banky, that is not ADD its tourettes syndrome. And you should feel bad for making fun of them as they can't help. Mabey you have tourettes to and can't help making fun of them. ever think of it that way? Another delicate area for me as I was diagnosed with ADD/Tourettes at a very young age. Tourettes can be a side affect from different medication including, rittalin, norpraman, and clonodine. the latter 2 arent used very much in treatment anymore how ever. But one can also be born with tourettes. Mine is a sideaffect from rittalin and clonodine.

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LowKey
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 12:10:53 AM

Many times tourettes are misdiagnosed as ADD

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Banky A
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 6:49:29 PM

They (the girls in my class) don't have the actual syndromes ^_^

They just act so stupid all the time lol.
I know it's a serious matter but my friend and I just joked about it because it was annoying.

I was just putting it out there and hoping I didn't get feedback that you gave me.

Though I respect and value your contribution to info ^_^

Last edited by Banky A on 10/16/2009 6:50:16 PM

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___________
Friday, October 16, 2009 @ 1:49:35 AM
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hmmmmm i wonder how long it will take the media to blame video games for that 13 year old being burned alive recently.
apparently he bought a game off someone and did not pay, so the guy stole his dads car so he called the cops.
so in revenge of snitching they turned up at his school and set him alight.
im sure the media will find some way to blame this on games, even though theres no proof indicating if either party have played a game in there life.
im sick of games being the scapegoat.
the reason of all evil.
im surprised they have not blamed terrorism on games.................YET!
this is the reason why i have to put up with a dictatorship when it comes to game classification.
i cant wait till ive finished tafe and can leave this s*** hole.

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ThePoetRazel
Saturday, October 17, 2009 @ 2:42:54 AM
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“our results may serve to constrain the claims of some scholars, game manufacturers, and journalists who have suggested that playing action video games ‘improves attention.’”. That sounds like this researcher may have been out to discredit this claim in the first place, which places a bias here i think. Especially if he thinks a single, limited study is enough to do that by itself.
Furthermore, did they not considered in they're conclusions that 1. video games may attract more people who have ADD in the first place and these people may be worse off without them? (notice that there is a link, not a cause shown. The researcher quoted seems to have forgotten the difference). 2. the results could be effected by the slight increase in low latent inhibition that video games have been shown to cause.
I'm sure these questions are raised by reputable scientific journals instead of the rag this story is from.

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