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Games Science

Video Gamers See the World Differently 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-weren't-lying-to-our-parents-after-all dept.
trendspotter points out this research from Duke University: "Hours spent at the video gaming console not only train a player's hands to work the buttons on the controller, they probably also train the brain to make better and faster use of visual input, according to Duke University researchers (abstract). 'Gamers see the world differently,' said Greg Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine. 'They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.' ... Each participant was run though a visual sensory memory task that flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters for just one-tenth of a second. After a delay ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one spot on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were asked to identify which letter had been in that spot. At every time interval, intensive players of action video games outperformed non-gamers in recalling the letter."
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Video Gamers See the World Differently

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  • Shocking... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geek42 (592158) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:12AM (#43981705)
    Breaking news: gamers better at playing games.
    • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:31AM (#43981773)

      Breaking news: gamers better at playing games.

      Exactly. I wonder how good they would be at identifying objects in a more natural environment. Drop a bunch of gamers off in the country, give them certain visual/memory tasks, and see if they perform better than a group of non-gamers.

      "How many horses are standing in the shade under the tree?"
      "Is the corn crib to the right or left of the barn?"
      "What gauge shotgun is the farmer shooting at you with from his porch?

      • by Guinness Beaumont (2901413) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:41AM (#43981815)
        That farmer couldn't even quickscope. lol, what a noob.
        • by Billlagr (931034)
          Maybe we should give him an aimbot, to blast people hiding behind the wall off his lawn
        • Well, actually, a shotgun at that distance is more to scare off vegetable-stealing hobbits. It's not likely to hurt you badly.

          • And what distance is that, precisely? Shotguns are much more dangerous in real life, contrary to most video game representations. A quick google search turns up about 50 yards for the danger zone, but blindly guessing, it'll still sting a bit a 100 yards, depending on the guage and shot.
            • Re:Shocking... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Guinness Beaumont (2901413) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @04:57AM (#43982831)
              Things don't mimic reality in video games. For example, shotguns. [nerfnow.com]
            • Re:Shocking... (Score:5, Informative)

              by geirlk (171706) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @05:40AM (#43982981)

              Depends on ammo type, but here's a little table:

              No. 2 - 330 yards
              No. 4 - 286 yards
              No. 6 - 242 yards
              No. 7 1/2- 209 yards
              No. 8 - 198 yards

              Those does not take into account the "extreme maximum" range, but rather the common range for those shots. Even altitude can have a huge impact on range.
              With No. 7 1/2, which is commonly used for trap shooting, one should have a safety range of 300 yards.

              That is provided they use shots, and not slugs. Slugs have good accuracy to 70-80 yards, and are lethal at several times that distance.

              • by gmclapp (2834681)
                I think you're giving the farmer a lot of credit. Most of the farms I know buy whatever's cheap and shoot indiscriminately at trespassers no matter their distance. ;)
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by upto0013 (1144677)
                  Far too much credit.
                  I'm a pretty good shot and I can hit a milk jug consistently at 300 yards. But that's a Winchester rifle and a lifetime of practice. I've made shots at 500 yards with a .270 rifle and scope, but I wouldn't count on it if I had to make the shot.
                  Anyone hitting even a large, gamer-size target at 200 yards with a shotgun is pretty amazing. The best grouping ever recorded is just under an inch at 100 yards (.798 inches). And those groupings are from professional shooters with $4,000 gun
                  • by geirlk (171706)

                    I see I forgot to mention those ranges are what you should consider dangerous. You would barely be able get a grouping the size of a barn from those ranges.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Agares (1890982)
              I own a shotgun and I can tell you, as I am sure quite a few of you already know, that they are differetnly much different in real life on how effective they are. I will admit that it irritates me on COD how a near point blank shot wont kill someone quite often when in real life one could easily take down a small bear depending on what ammo is used. Furthermore I agree with what has been said that a lot of gamers probably wouldn't grasp real life concepts to well. For example when I play paintball with my b
              • I've shot myself (by accident) with a 410 shotgun at close range (blowing off my thumb in the process) and -- d'ya think? First person shooters where people get shot repeatedly and overrun a heath kit and are suddenly better (and didn't just die as their limbs and organs were blown off or perforated) aren't realistic?

                Damn. Who knew?

                I'm taking back my original copies of Duke Nukem and Doom, and trading them in for a realistic game like Mortal Combat or World of Warcraft.

                Or let's rewrite all first person sh

              • I don't agree. I'm an avid gamer and I'm fully aware that COD tactics do not work IRL. Disregarding the fact that I have military training, when I play air-soft with the guys, we base all our tactics on Rainbow 6, a game where two shots to the leg with a pistol take you out of the game.
                • In addition, I guess it depends on what game you play and whether you're stupid enough to think that that shit works IRL.
          • Well, actually, a shotgun at that distance is more to scare off vegetable-stealing hobbits. It's not likely to hurt you badly.

            He needs to start getting some kills so he can upgrade that shit!

          • Wait, the hobbits had firearms?

            That would have made them the most powerful force in middle earth.
            • No the hobbits had hobbit arms
            • Sauron had nukes and biologicals and binary nerve gases, silly beanie. The only reason hobbits survived the first war at all is because their little hobbit holes double as fallout shelters and their immune systems were strong from walking around all of the time without shoes. Also, hobbits are very fond of mushrooms and other alkaloid-containing herbs and have evolved a remarkable resistance to toxins. Their powerfully detoxifying livers are roughly a third of their body weight, after a lifetime of quaf

        • quickscoping is just a glitch/artifact in the game and has no relevance to real-life firearm skill or any other skill. However, top COD players are able to recognize even one pixel out of place in a scene... their reflexes honed from many hours of battling against campers and snipers. This (ability to recognize something out of place quickly) can probably help in many real-world situations.

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        I'm pretty good at spotting wildlife at a park near here and can usually do it before people I'm with do. It'd be interesting to see if it made a difference in more common tasks, though. Like driving in traffic.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ACELLC (1612841)

        Breaking news: gamers better at playing games.

        Exactly. I wonder how good they would be at identifying objects in a more natural environment. Drop a bunch of gamers off in the country, give them certain visual/memory tasks, and see if they perform better than a group of non-gamers.

        "How many horses are standing in the shade under the tree?" "Is the corn crib to the right or left of the barn?" "What gauge shotgun is the farmer shooting at you with from his porch?

        I'd start with something less technical like: "What is that green stuff covering the ground?" or "What is that large glowing object in the sky?"

        • "Do you know why your smartphone isn't working?" "What direction should you walk in towards civilization (no, not Civilization)?"
      • They should be slightly better than the average person in spotting stuff in real life. You have to practice to get better, both in real life and in video games, and the "simulations" done in video games will help you improve your real life performance.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I wonder to what extent their other senses suffer? Video games provide only visuals and usually stereo sound (rather than full 3D like the real world). No touch, no smell, no sense of balance, no feeling the wind, no g-forces.

      • I wonder to what extent their other senses suffer? Video games provide only visuals and usually stereo sound (rather than full 3D like the real world). No touch, no smell, no sense of balance, no feeling the wind, no g-forces.

        I assume that they don't get any serious practice(and so would deeply underperform against perfumers, ninjas, sculptors, and glider pilots); but it's not as though everyone gets only 20 Sense Points to distribute across all their sensory stats, making it so bumping one stat requires degrading a different one.

    • Breaking Fox News: Gamers implicated in ABC murders.
  • I can believe this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:18AM (#43981727)
    Mostly because I was a long time gamer before I signed up for a psychology experiment.(This was in the early 90's.) They'd flash a single wordson the monitor and see which ones I could or couldn't read.(I forget what they were testing with the words since it's been so long.) To make a long story short they couldn't use me for the experiment because I could always read the words even if flashed for 1 frame. (1/60th of a second or 15milliseconds) I told the psych professor it was probably because I played so many video games.(Which was the only thing that made sense to me since you have to respond to very quick visual stimuli.) Actually this sucked because I signed up for the experiment in the first place because we had to do a couple hours of participating in experiments for the psych class I was taking and basically I wasted an hour on this and got no credit.
    • by Ultracrepidarian (576183) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @04:22AM (#43982731)
      So they deleted the data points that didn't fit their predetermined bias.
      • by SirGarlon (845873)
        How else to you expect them to keep getting funding from an agency that wants predetermined results?
    • They exclude people that don't match the results they want? Sounds like a pretty biased experiment. Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding this experiment? (Granted, it's already not a real random sample either, so it was already heading for statistical hell.)

  • by csumpi (2258986) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:21AM (#43981733)
    I thought they sat in a dark room all day with a black t-shirt that says do not expose to sun.
  • I wonder how well it works for longer term decision making? In extreme, is there any risk of training yourself into a fast swimming ADHD Dory [wikia.com]?
  • But is it permanent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:41AM (#43981817) Homepage Journal

    The first few layers of the visual cortex are highly malleable. Wear a set of glasses that flip the world upside down (or angle the field of view by 10 degrees) and the system will adapt within a couple of days - the user will see the world as normal.

    But also - when the user stops wearing the glasses the system quickly adapts back.

    With all this fluidity, I suspect that a gamer's heightened sense of perception will dissipate if they stop playing games. At a guess this would probably take about 6 weeks.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      The first few layers of the visual cortex are highly malleable. Wear a set of glasses that flip the world upside down (or angle the field of view by 10 degrees) and the system will adapt within a couple of days - the user will see the world as normal.

      But also - when the user stops wearing the glasses the system quickly adapts back.

      With all this fluidity, I suspect that a gamer's heightened sense of perception will dissipate if they stop playing games. At a guess this would probably take about 6 weeks.

      If maybe the brain wasn't processing what you see. I doubt the eyes react quicker, it's probably the brain reacts quicker. Why? Because of the practice. So the skill could get rusty if you don't use it everyday, but it's possible that once you gain the skill, you use it.

      So basically I don't agree with your assumption and me, not being an expert (but a long time gamer), I'm going with my assumption.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        My experience has taught me that if I do not play a shooter for some time, my ability to track fast moving targets decrease significantly. This is especially true for classical fast fps games like Unreal Tournament and Quake. I lose the ability to "see" the exact location of a player at the pixel level, reducing my overall accuracy.

        This only applies to shooters though, and when outside in the woods I am rarely the first to spot an animal, so..

        • Want to know why? Because you cannot see the signs! As some posters have said before, "great you can spot a letter... but can you do X" I am outside in the forest with my dogs, have been for nearly 20 years. I can spot animals as quick or quicker than my dogs. It is something that you acquire, and I suck big time at video games. Not dissing video games, just saying that "great you can spot a letter", as for me , "great you can spot animals, where is my gun ;) "

      • The brain reacting quicker is the most likely scenario. The excessive repetition of an activity results in the the axons building up a nice fat layer of myelin sheathing, which have insulation properties that speed up the electrical transmission.
      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Some skills are "forgotten" but the pathways are not deleted. So when you want to "learn" them again, after they've been learned, the pathways are already there. You can test me on that. Get good on a bicycle. Then, don't ride one for 20 years. Then ride one again. Note how it feels unfamiliar as you get on, and take off, not unlike the first time you rode. Note also, you can control it almost as well as the last time you rode. You "forgot" how to ride over 20 years, but the pathways were still ther
    • by geirlk (171706)

      I am willing to bet that years of gaming will physically change the brain, to a degree that it will not quickly subside afterwards. Not unlike the cab drivers of London learning "The Knowledge". It has been proven that the hippocampus area of their brains actually grows to a much larger size than the average population. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/12/08/acquiring-the-knowledge-changes-the-brains-of-london-cab-drivers/ [discovermagazine.com]

      In myself, being a gamer, I know that I usually surpass my none

      • by Sarius64 (880298)
        We used to hone these skills through hunting. You should try it sometimes when you have a real stake in your immediate survival. I wonder at the rates of consistent reaction times and measured spatial awareness that would prevail in those circumstances.
    • The first few layers of the visual cortex are highly malleable. Wear a set of glasses that flip the world upside down (or angle the field of view by 10 degrees) and the system will adapt within a couple of days - the user will see the world as normal.

      But also - when the user stops wearing the glasses the system quickly adapts back.

      For _most_ people, the system will adapt backwards. But the reason the experiment was only performed once at the Univ of WA in the 1970s was because when the students first put on the glasses, their brains flipped the scenes within 48 hours.

      But when they took them off, a couple student's brains didn't un-reverse for several weeks. I believe there was a lawsuit.

  • chicken or egg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tweezak (871255) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:48AM (#43981849)

    Does gaming make you better at these tests or is it just that people that have these particular skills tend to gravitate to action video games?

    • by yathaid (2106468)
      Wouldn't that be the point of a Control group?
      • by julesh (229690)

        I don't see how you could control for such an effect. When you sample from a self-selected group (i.e. gamers) you always risk sampling bias based on something that may cause people to select themselves into the group, which in this case is actually quite likely to be "being good at action-oriented video games" which translates largely to "having fast reflexes". AFAIK, there is no way to counteract this effect.

    • A bit of both, I'd imagine. Thank you for reminding us that correlation does not imply causation. There should be an automatic reminder below every /. post containing such studies, so we don't need an obligatory reminder post every time.
    • by Grismar (840501)

      Your question is valid, but the research doesn't appear to favor one of the answers - though it's clear which one will sell more ads. (Found myself replacing "papers" with "ads" there, how sad)

      Although this is in the article: 'Appelbaum said that with time and experience, the gamer apparently gets better at doing this. "They need less information to arrive at a probabilistic conclusion, and they do it faster."' And of course you could actually determine this by looking at how long and how much people have b

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I was a busy salesman driving around my city I used FPSs to keep my reaction times low and situational awareness sharp. Where I live the traffic is the worst/deadliest in our area so I felt like I needed something to give me an advantage. I drove on this route for six years and 35,000 miles without a ticket or accident. Not that I didn't come close a few times.

    • by chromas (1085949) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:08AM (#43982181)

      I drive at full throttle at all times, lane splitting on the median and using only the handbrake for those times I need to round sharp corners. I run over hundreds of pedestrians, most of whom get right back up and simply curse at me. When the cops come, I drive outside their search radius and they call it off.

      Vidya games have taught me well.

    • by gary_7vn (1193821)

      Yes, fine, but how many people did you kill with your car mounted laser cannons?

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:52AM (#43981867) Homepage
    There's been other similar prior work. For example, there's evidence that gamers can quickly allocate their attention in an efficient fashion. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2680769/ [nih.gov] and that gamers have faster reaction times for a large variety of tasks http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/18/6/321.short [sagepub.com].
  • Gestalt psychology would suppose that the brain processes information with the ability to fill in gaps so to speak, or to quote Kurt Koffka, "The whole is other than the sum of the parts." One of the gestalt "laws" of grouping, that of symmetry, is that object of similar grouping will be perceived as formed around a center point.

    Gamers have the benefit of using the natural fixation point of our retinas in an enhanced way (or rather in a more methodical fashion); "focus" as abstract as that means in cogni
  • Forget those amateurs! I could identify the letter AND shoot it in one shot! I hear that's an achievement.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Interestingly, the researchers also noted that, despite the lack of anonymity, gamers exhibited a higher rate of verbal abuse of other participants who failed to complete the given task successfully. This rate was shown to be independent of the gamer's biological age, ethnicity and social class, but a correlation appeared when plotted against the gamer's online age. The rate of abuse also increased as the gamers became more confident in their ability to outperform other participants.

    The researchers have the

  • My first computer was a ZX Spectrum, and I used to play games like *Psssst*. I have always felt that I was better at moving through thick crowds because of this. My wife always takes the wrong ways through crowds, moving to the places with most people, whereas I see al the holes in the crowd.
  • It causes bad drivers.

    The place I see this effect is driving home from the AMC 20 in Santa Clara on 101, and the idiots in the rice rockets who (A) thing they are playing a video game, (B) think that video game physics perfectly mirror reality, so things that work there work in the meat word, and (C) think everyone else drives the same way they do, so it's OK to drive that way because the only people who will get in accidents are the people who don't play the game as well as they play it.

    Personally, If I we

    • Yeah, I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on this.

      You're missing a much more fundamental possible cause of the behavior. By and large, the drivers of rice rockets are late teens/early 20s males. Late teens/early 20s males have a couple things going on:

      A) They engage in experience seeking, risk taking behaviors at a much, MUCH higher rate. The causal link between that and testosterone is the popular theory, scientifically it's still up in the air as far as I know, but I haven't really b
    • by geirlk (171706)

      Gamers don't cause bad drivers. GPU manufacturers cause bad drivers.

      Without good drivers they'll crash.

      We are talking 'bout the same thing, right?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      You really have no idea what you're talking about. Before video games, the idiots in the rice rockets were idiots in muscle cars. And before muscle cars the idiots were in hot rods. Before that, you had people who would whip their horses into a froth and pull their surrey too fast. (They even optionally had fringe on the top; compare and contrast "dingle balls")

      Video games can improve driving skills. Gran Turismo did for me. It made me a smoother driver even around the speed limits.

  • I have a nephew who is a classic example of the video game addicted kid... only he's not a kid any more. Sure, he's got the boost in hand-eye coordination, but where does it benefit his life? He might have a career in operating drones in the future..."securing our freedom?" But his unending focus on non-productive, non-valuable sense of achievement [unlocked!] had literally interfered with his development as a person. He is/was a truly sharp person but we just can't tear him away from his gaming.

    And lik

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Socrates had the same dim view of "kids these days" a few thousand years ago.

      I don't think you're seeing a gaming problem there. I've seen the same escaping-reality behavior with books and television. If your life isn't particularly rewarding or interesting, you'll seek it out somewhere else. You say he's seeking out a non-valuable sense of achievement, but has anyone ever provided him a particularly valuable one? The endemic problem you think you've identified might have more of a basis with our society

      • by Kelbear (870538)

        I'm a gaming enthusiast, but I'm not going to prop up gaming on a pedestal as a particularly virtuous use of my time (though no less than the vast majority of hobbies).

        Games are designed to reward players with hooks to provide constant entertainment triggers. Real life simply is not designed to reward you as frequently and consistently as games. Many of the real-world achievements that we respect involve long arduous stretches of little or no return for time invested.

        The key lesson for young gamers is that

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      But his unending focus on non-productive, non-valuable sense of achievement [unlocked!] had literally interfered with his development as a person.

      For a second there, I thought you were talking about an insurance salesman. The simple truth is that most of our jobs are not useful. They amount to behaving like decapitated poultry, or as some sort of gatekeeper.

    • Not everything we do in life is meant to have a direct and tangible benefit. Sometimes we just do shit for fun. Just because you feel that gaming is pointless doesn't mean that the rest of us feel that way too, nor does it mean you're right. I'm sure you waste your time on something that we don't see the point of doing.

      With that in mind. You have to understand that some of us do get benefit out of gaming, even though you don't.
    • What you say is very subjective. Your own point of view with your own experience. Then allow me to show you mine. After a long day of work, i like to relax a little bit before i get to my home chores. So i play a bit. One of my "basics of life" is "taking my mind off of the horrendous world outside" and i do that by blasting zombies. I will grant you that unlocking an achievement in a game is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things but it is by no mean useless.on a personal level. It gi
    • I have a nephew who is a classic example of the video game addicted kid... only he's not a kid any more. Sure, he's got the boost in hand-eye coordination, but where does it benefit his life?

      I have friend who is an alcoholic. That doesn't mean everyone who drinks wine is a loser.
      An anecdote or single example is not a statistic, much less a trend.

      How much better off would your nephew be if he didn't play games but merely watched Reality TV shows and Justin Bieber concerts?
      There are many different ways to be a loser.
      And there are many different skills in the world.
      I'd rather have arthroscopic surgery done by a doc who is also a gamer than one who isn't and doesn't have the hand-eye coordin

  • Someone teach this man (professor) the difference between causality and correlation.. He's not a artsie guy, he's a scientis... Wait... "assistant professor of psychiatry"..... Ok.. I understand.
  • I know I see the world differently.

    After playing through the first Assassin's Creed game, I'd find myself looking up at tall buildings, churches, etc. working out the best path to take for climbing up to the roof.

    Never actually attempted to climb to the roof of any building - probably for the best; I hate heights.

  • Since we've finally moved past the old "you only use 10% of your brain" canard, it seems plausible that the neural paths reinforced by/for tasks like this would otherwise have been doing something else. I wonder if there are tasks where these gamers perform significantly worse than non-gamers? If there are, are the deficits consistent, or do different brains lose different things?

  • Looks like the gamers know what the letter has been in some spot a few milli seconds later. It probably explains why gamers playing real baseball with real bats seem to be hitting where the ball had been a few milliseconds instead of where the ball is now.
    • Looks like the gamers know what the letter has been in some spot a few milli seconds later. It probably explains why gamers playing real baseball with real bats seem to be hitting where the ball had been a few milliseconds instead of where the ball is now.

      Are you talking about video gamers who have never played baseball?
      If so, then compare their abilities to no-gamers who have never played baseball. Everyone starts by swinging too late.
      Compare apples to apples. Don't compare pros to specific types of n00bs and then believe it tells you anything about anything.

  • So this could just be attributed to lots of weed and caffeine?

  • Duke Nukem University?
  • Video games, especially first person shooters, definitely increase your situational awareness. In those games, you often have to identify multiple simultaneous threats, prioritize them, and strategize how to neutralize them all with split-second precision. While that process may require analyzing more of the visual field faster than the average person, as this study seems to show, I think there is a lot more higher-order processing going on to prioritize the threats and neutralize them.

    With that said,
    • Agree completely. I used to be a gaming addict back in the university days, mainly counterstrike and racing games, and these skills once almost saved my life. Driving to my parents house, we were on a busy road when the car in front of me had a collision and spun around. I could immediately respond, and avoided hitting it myself. My brother that was with me in the car was terrified, and didn't even realize what happened until we stood still much further. I am sure the gaming made the difference between an a

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