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Study: Games Can Improve Thinking In "Complex Problems"

In another shock of shocks from the scientific community, we have learned that playing puzzle games can actually enhance your puzzle-solving ability. ...no, seriously. It has been proven.

But the study in question also included "action" games, so it's not entirely about puzzlers positively affecting the brain. As reported by Game Politics, a recent study conducted by a Wheaton College professor has revealed that those who play such games "are better able to think through complex problems." Professor of Psychology Rolf Nelson published his study's results in the November edition of the journal, Perception; the study involved 20 students and a spatial relation problem. After playing a puzzle or action game, the students got another crack at solving a complicated problem and both groups (those who played a puzzle game and those who played an action game) were able to solve the conundrum faster. The action-ers solved it faster with less accuracy while the puzzlers solved it slower with more accuracy. The study's goal was written as follows:

"To understand the way in which video-game play affects subsequent perception and cognitive strategy, two experiments were performed in which participants played either a fast-action game or a puzzle-solving game. Before and after video-game play, participants performed a task in which both speed and accuracy were emphasized. In experiment 1 participants engaged in a location task in which they clicked a mouse on the spot where a target had appeared, and in experiment 2 they were asked to judge which of four shapes was most similar to a target shape. In both experiments, participants were much faster but less accurate after playing the action game, while they were slower but more accurate after playing the puzzle game. Results are discussed in terms of a taxonomy of video games by their cognitive and perceptual demands."

You can read it all if you choose to subscribe to Perception, but I've got a really dumb question: in order to compare results, these students had to have taken the experiment/problem twice; once before playing and once after, right? But wouldn't the problem have to be different? I mean, wouldn't you always do it faster the second time after having already tried it? Obviously, we must be talking about two different sets of problems, but I just thought I'd throw that out there.

12/30/2009 10:51:28 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (37 posts)

WolfCrimson
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 11:29:09 AM
Reply

Ben, if you do find a flaw with the design of this study, I think you should write to the researchers in charge.

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fuk u
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 11:44:13 AM
Reply

yup im fast like that, thanks video games :)

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fluffer nutter
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 1:05:43 PM

That's what she said!

Sorry, my fingers got itchy and I couldn't stop myself. :p

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JMO_INDY
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 7:15:02 PM

Thats also what she said,haha!

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Banky A
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 10:50:49 PM

That's not what her mom told me...

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Dogswithguns
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 11:48:31 AM
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Very true, no wonder why Im so smart. :D

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mexgeo86
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 11:51:43 AM
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reading the article the first thing that came to mind was the 'truth' puzzles in Assassin's Creed II, those things will really get your brain going.

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Luiscosmo2
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 5:54:21 PM

Yep...But there so hard for me I use IGN =/ but those make you think like real hard..I tried without help...Im not smart =(

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IronFace2
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 11:52:23 AM
Reply

Video games makes us smart... no schools needed here ;)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 2:00:27 PM

nope, school fails... to get you a job.

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NoMoreWar
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 11:52:59 AM
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i LOLed at this story

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Nynja
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 12:04:15 PM
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Because of the requirement for complex thought process and challenges placed in front of the gamer (for some games), it was the main reason I enjoyed video games so much. RTS' and RPGs supply many of those situations I crave from time to time. Then again a great story and adventure (MGS and Uncharted) is always welcome too.

To this day, Tetris remains my favorite past time game.

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Nynja
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 12:10:25 PM
Reply

PSXE,

Comment on the new poll - you left out Halo:ODST...

From what I gathered about the 'game', it is more of an overpriced expansion pack than a full fledge game. I tried to get into the Halo games, but just could not get past that it just felt like Unreal Tournament, Doom, or Quake. I could never get what all the hype was about. I suppose some people much rather play a game with (IMO) a generic recycled plot line of fighting space aliens.

That's what I liked about the Killzone storyline. Much more intuitive than just beings from a far far galaxy.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 2:01:15 PM

maybe that's why they left it out, just a pompous expansion pack.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 2:45:26 PM

We left it out because it's a 360-exclusive and this is a PlayStation-oriented site. :)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 6:51:12 PM

lol

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lMephisto
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 12:53:13 PM
Reply

My head aches whenever I remember the time spent on Ecochrome... hell of a hard game!

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SvenMD
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 1:22:22 PM
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OK - not so much.

From the original article the first sentence says "A new study conducted by a Wheaton College professor has concluded that people that play action and puzzle games are better able to think through complex problems."

This is not AT ALL what the paper says. The paper states that "Results convincingly demonstrate a PRIMING effect for two different types of video games. Action games resulted in faster reaction times and lower accuracy on a location task, while playing a puzzle game resulted in slower reaction times and higher accuracy."

Two different tests were used, a location test and a matching-figure test. You took the test, then played 1 hour of Unreal Tournament (action), or 1 hour of Portal(Puzzle) - both FPS's. Both ended with the same result. If you play the action game your response time decreases and you are less accurate on the 2nd group of test- AKA "itchy trigger finger". And if you play the puzzle game then you will take your time and be more accurate the 2nd time around.

Ben - I agree with your last statement - if you do something a second time, then you should be better than the first time that you did it. But the researchers tried to minimize this by having the experiment be slightly random (so that it's never exactly the same as the time before).

On a side note there were only 20 people in each experiment group....that's not EVEN enough people to draw an accurate conclusion. They state a p value of <0.01 percent - saying that the likelihood of these results happening by chance is less than 1%, but I still don't put any weight in it. Try again with 200 and it would mean more.

So basically what the paper is saying is that you can PRIME human strategies by playing a certain type of game.

By that rationale, playing a happy game will make you happy, or playing a violent game should make someone more violent...which I personally do not agree with at all. I've killed thousands of enemies in games and have not once committed murder in real life. I just don't believe all that.

That's my take on it.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 1:59:55 PM
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I think this is the same thing I saw on the local news about how puzzlers keep old folks from getting dimensia. I'll still be gaming when I'm old and gray. Uncharted 20 ftw.

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A2K78
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 2:58:03 PM
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Wow!, its now that scientist figure out the fact that video games can be good for the brain? I mean PONG figured that out back in 1972. In fact it doesn't suprise me that table tennis/tennis players ACTUALLY used PONG to simulate a match. Don't stop there, but pro-drivers actually use certain games as a means to improve their decisions-making when participating in certain race.

The point is, you don't need to sherlock holmes or a scientist to figure out that video games can be good for the brain because overall that is thier whole purpose. Sadly though because of the continued hollywoodization of the video game industry video games are no longer about fun or having games that challenge the individual gamer.

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Alienange
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 3:21:57 PM
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They "ARE better able to think through complex problems." They're just more likely to not WANT to.

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Banky A
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 4:17:59 PM
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I'm slow.

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fuk u
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 5:50:29 PM
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just keep playing those games Banky!

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Banky A
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 10:55:54 PM

Used to be fast back in the PS1 and PS2 days with those 'reading RPGs' and the industry having heaps of little puzzles in most standard games.

But now... *shrug*

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iamwolverine
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 6:35:41 PM
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what about a control group of non-gamers?!?!?

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Snaaaake
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 7:34:31 PM
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I learned most of my basic english from playing FFVIII and FFIX.

I just read the dialogue and when there's any word I don't know I just get my Oxford dictionary.

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Banky A
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 10:52:54 PM

Bro' I fully learnt to read English from FFVII and FFVIII which were the 2nd and 3rd games I've played (from my neighbour, and also my first RPGs).

Internet high five!
And if there was I word I didn't know, I would have a talk with that dear neighbour... And then his dad would further enlighten us with interesting stories ;)

Last edited by Banky A on 12/30/2009 10:54:22 PM

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Naga
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @ 10:41:51 PM

Playing the LoK series from Soul Reaver to defiance improved my English alot it was special

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PhilipJWitow
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 8:27:26 PM
Reply

The fact that people improved from before the experiment to after the experiment is sort of irrelevant to the findings of the study. The study isn't looking at whether games improve thinking, but HOW different types of games affect your thinking patterns.

The main findings are that from two random groups of students, if they play a puzzle game they focus more on solving it accurately but less quickly, but the action group solves it quickly but less accurately. It's interesting in its own right because it suggests that playing two different games leads to two different problem-solving pathways.

As for SvenVD, I'm pretty certain that playing happy games will prime you to be more happy, and playing violent games will prime you to be more violent. I think that's sort of a given, but just because you're more likely to be violent doesn't mean you're going to be a killer. Just like if your parents are alcoholics you're more likely to be an alcoholic, but it doesn't mean you're going to be an alcoholic.

It is interesting from my perspective how this information is interpreted though, no offence to you Ben, but the original article and this present article has misinterpreted the findings of the article and twisted it around a little. The title of the article itself is "Action and puzzle video games prime different speed/accuracy tradeoffs" and is not interested in whether video game playing improves thinking at all.

If you're interested in whether video game playing does improve thinking, try looking at Boot et al.'s (2008) papers or any of the work by Green and Bavelier (2003, 2006 and more), which has found improved ability for a number of tasks in video gamers.

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SvenMD
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @ 8:47:53 AM

Well then I will just pull the old "agree to disagree"

If I'm playing Killzone 2 or MW2 and I'm kicking ass and I beat the game, I'm probably going to be in a happy mood. However, if I'm stuck on a level and I keep getting shot up all the time, then I might have a propensity to be in a bad mood, which one might express as violence by maybe, say, yelling at the TV.

But what I'm not going to do is play MW2 for 3 hours and then go be hostile towards my wife simply because I've been playing a violent video game. Again, that just doesn't make sense to me.

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BikerSaint
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 9:13:17 PM
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I'm no rocket scientist but I seem to think a little better after playing puzzle games.

Well if not, at least there's much less brain farting on my end.

Last edited by BikerSaint on 12/30/2009 9:14:14 PM

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___________
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 @ 11:58:07 PM
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so if i play assassins creed 2 its going to enhance my assassination abilities?
COOL!
nah, ive always hated puzzle games, especially chess.
im to impatient to enjoy puzzle games, hence why i completley lost my temper solving the pool puzzle in prince of Persia.
now that was infuriating!
i dont mind simple 2 minute puzzles like what uncharted, or uncharted 2 has, but long puzzles like PoP?
no thanks, thats taking it too far.
id rather gash my arm open and rub salt and vinegar along there.

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Banky A
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @ 1:28:51 PM

Are you sure you would rather rub salt and vinegar on an arm that you gashed?...

Last edited by Banky A on 12/31/2009 1:29:03 PM

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Naga
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @ 10:38:31 PM

haha no offense the pool puzzle was badass, games like PoP need more for challenge reasons

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___________
Friday, January 01, 2010 @ 7:12:11 AM

yup im sure.
at least rubbing salt would help disinfect the wound and start the healing process.
it would be productive, and help fix the problem.
the pool puzzle in PoP was causing problems not fixing them, i almost went bald because of it.
the puzzles in uncharted 2 are perfect, any longer or harder and their to tedious and to hard, any easier and there to easy.
ND struck the puzzle nail right on the head, though i would of liked maybe 1 or 2 more.

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Naga
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @ 10:36:08 PM
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Soon we will gain xp by learning over stuff then we level up to a level 2 human also we can make our own quests like going to Game or shopping at Tesco a deadly quest as the bags can be heavy if your alone.. because you had just abbandonned your party member at a butchers shame on you!!

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Banky A
Friday, January 01, 2010 @ 4:03:49 AM

LOL @ butchers.

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