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Playing StarCraft Could Boost Your Cognitive Flexibility 124

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tricked-into-learning dept.
First time accepted submitter briglass writes "Imagine being a total non-gamer and then suddenly playing an hour of StarCraft a day for almost two months. A new study of mine demonstrates that a group of female gaming novices (seriously novice, as in 0 to 1 hour of gaming per week novice) demonstrated increased cognitive flexibility after playing StarCraft, a sort of fast-paced chess on steroids. The control group played The Sims. It's been well known that video gaming can lead to psychological benefits, such as faster perceptual information processing after playing first-person shooter games. But this new study, published in PLOS ONE, shows that video gaming can also affect higher-level cognitive functions. The StarCraft game was customized to be adaptive and remain challenging as the newly minted gamers honed their skills, and in-game behavior was recorded to determine what aspects of StarCraft leads to the boost in flexibility."
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Playing StarCraft Could Boost Your Cognitive Flexibility

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  • Even better (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Monday August 12, 2013 @09:06PM (#44548583)
    ...start making apps. An hour or more a day for a year. Tacks will start saying they are as sharp as you.
  • Warzone2100 (Score:5, Informative)

    by sobolwolf (1084585) on Monday August 12, 2013 @09:11PM (#44548617) Journal
    is in my opinion better and open source as well. http://wz2100.net/ [wz2100.net] - Graphics are a little dated but the gameplay is very addictive. I would say if the girls were tested with this game they would have been playing for longer than an hour per day ;)
  • that the author is a Starcraft gamer. Look Mom, I'm not playing a stupid game, I'm improving myself.

    • Re:I'm going to bet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pulzar (81031) on Monday August 12, 2013 @09:29PM (#44548713)

      that the author is a Starcraft gamer

      Possibly... but they are also neuroscience and psychology PhDs at UT Austin.

      • by sd4f (1891894)
        There were people with PhD's and other higher education who wanted, and did believe that Uri Geller had special powers.
        • That's a little off-topic, don't you think?
          • by sd4f (1891894)
            Just making a point that having a PhD doesn't mean the person is free from bias and a sceptic all the time. If they want to believe, they'll probably find evidence, just like the scientists who fell hook line and sinker for Uri Geller. The cynic in me tends to agree with what the OP said.
            • by Sockatume (732728)

              So you're saying you're going to choose to disbelieve research that you don't want to believe in, on the basis of a purely hypothetical scenario for which there is no evidence?

              Bravo.

              • So you're saying you're going to choose to disbelieve research that you don't want to believe in, on the basis of a purely hypothetical scenario for which there is no evidence?

                Bravo.

                I believe he's saying that a single study that yields unlikely (IHHO) results deserves a healthy dose of skepticism.

                • Unlikely results with good controls and p>>0.05. So congrats on that argument from personal incredulity.

                  • Unlikely results with good controls and p>>0.05. So congrats on that argument from personal incredulity.

                    It doesn't matter how good YOU think the controls are; it's still only a single study. Skepticism is still warranted on unlikely results.

                    • Healthy skepticism, sure, insane "I absolutely refuse to believe this because it goes against my preconceived notions" is moronic. Video games and cognitive abilities have been related in the past. This, to my knowledge, is the first study that uses controls for different genres, but far from the first addressing the concept.

                    • Healthy skepticism, sure, insane "I absolutely refuse to believe this because it goes against my preconceived notions" is moronic. Video games and cognitive abilities have been related in the past. This, to my knowledge, is the first study that uses controls for different genres, but far from the first addressing the concept.

                      I don't think your paraphrase is an accurate representation of the OP.

                • by Sockatume (732728)

                  That's not what he actually said: "they want to believe, they'll probably find evidence, just like the scientists who fell hook line and sinker for Uri Geller".

                  • by sd4f (1891894)
                    You left out a word, I said "If they want to believe, they'll probably find evidence, just like the scientists who fell hook line and sinker for Uri Geller". I'm not dismissing the research; I don't know, and am not convinced, and I've played a lot of starcraft.
            • The scientists in the Geller case, Puthoff and Targ, were physicists and hence out of their fields when dealing with an illusionist. Geller circumvented their tests using sensory cues that any competent psychologist would have managed—they blocked peepholes inadequately and discussed the answer to problems within his hearing range, assuming wrongly that he would not figure out what they were discussing. Perhaps you are not aware, but high-profile physicists occasionally suffer from extreme hubris that

              • by sd4f (1891894)

                I'm not saying this is bad science, I'm just not convinced. I did RTFA, that must be a fairly standard platitude for someone who has nothing to criticise, but still disagrees.

                One thing for sure is, playing a game will most probably make you better at playing that game. Cognitive flexibility, on the other hand, I think their definition and testing methodology for that is a little bit wanting. Nothing is mentioned about whether the participants were just learning how 'play' the testing. Like you are dealing w

  • ...but social skills and personal hygiene declined.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 12, 2013 @09:16PM (#44548647)

    Games have nothing to do with it. It seems rather self-evident that doing that involves learning something reasonably challenging for an hour a day for two months would boost cognitive flexibility.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I doubt it. Learning something hard that requires singular focus is unlikely to have this effect. If you looked at the paper you would notice that varying game styles had differing effects. I'm sure there are other activities besides playing StarCraft that could have this effect, though I'm willing to bet it's not easy to find the right activity with the right conditions as conveniently accessible as an RTS game.

    • by martyros (588782)

      Games have nothing to do with it. It seems rather self-evident that doing that involves learning something reasonably challenging for an hour a day for two months would boost cognitive flexibility.

      Click through and read the paper -- it's not paywalled, is relatively short, and I think the big picture is pretty understandable.

      If you do, you'll find that 1) cognitive flexibility is a technical term for a specific class of mental abilities 2) StarCraft was shown to increase cognitive flexibility, but (as expe

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Actually challenging tasks do not necessarily require or enhance cognitive flexibility. More to the point it's not obvious that maps requiring the player address two player and two enemy bases at once would have such a large effect compared to single-base designs.

  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Monday August 12, 2013 @09:17PM (#44548655)

    ...or that will undo all the cognitive gains you get from playing.

  • The dupe is in the first link of the article. It links back to this same page.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Tests also revealed that hearing "Nuclear launch detected" when you're expecting to hear "Carrier has arrived" can be extremely demoralizing.

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      Yes, but assasinating the ghost beaming the target designator can often save your ass. *always* have anti-cloak detection systems with an effective range large enough to reveal enemy ghosts! Always!

      (Flying observers work very well here. Set them on continuous patrol. If the enemy player aggressively tries to eliminate them, you know they are planning to nuke, and can pre-empt the strategy. Coupling the observers with some low level flying harrasment craft will give you the "engaged the enemy" alert, pinpoin

    • by Lotana (842533)

      In the original Starcraft it was the case. In Starcraft 2 nukes are so extremely rarely seen that it is virtually unheard of. Marines-Marauders-Mines-Medevac balls is the standard.

      As for carriers, sadly they had been so nerfed in Starcraft 2 that you also almost never see them. If the Protoss player managed to survive long enough to get Carriers, he normally got the forces to finish the game before the first one finally comes out.

  • In other news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bovius (1243040) on Monday August 12, 2013 @09:49PM (#44548797)

    It turns out that playing video games on a regular basis trains you to be better at the skills those games demand.

    It also turns out that some video games train valuable skills while still being fun, and other video games train you to be a vegetable.

    News at 11.

    • by znanue (2782675)

      I have no idea why you were modded up. It is the sort of specious reasoning that sounds good to the hoi polloi but lacks any sort of intellectual discipline. To poke some holes in your very shallow assessment:

      • What skills do video games demand? Specifically what skills does Starcraft 2 demand? I do not think it at all obvious. We can qualify them, but not quantify, and the degree of accuracy in qualifying them seems very suspect, to me.
      • What video games train you to be a vegetable? Seems to feed into s
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Cognitive flexiblity isn't a skill, it's a rather generic mental capability associated with improved performance in many tasks. Therefore activities which improve it are very important to research. Particular as this study concluded that certain kinds of level design provide larger improvements.

    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)
      dude, are you new here? if you have any stake in the article or summary, don't read the comments! You'll just be ripped apart by douchebags who are either armchair geniuses, grammar nazis, general trolls, or other. they love hearing a good idea and then tearing someone down. it's like a bar where bitter men gather to complain. they read news headlines aloud and bitch about them.
  • I doubt anyone who makes such a claim has ever seen high level fast-paced chess.

    • Many, many more variables to account for in Starcraft than Chess. Also, Chess is turn-based, while SC is real-time, so obviously there is the potential for your move to be countered before you even finish it. Now, the amount of memorization done for Chess is far greater than for SC, especially if a game goes deep. SC is so much more loose and more open-world than Chess that it doesn't lend itself to memorization of moves like Chess and its rigid structure do.
      • by znanue (2782675)
        The two games are not completely analogous, but I take some issue with the characterization that chess requires greater memory. There is something fundamental about the "rigidity" of chess and the "fluidity" of starcraft, but as skill rises, fluidity heavily diminishes for the first "phase" of most games. Pattern recognition, and thus, the underlying memory of patterns, is, to my perspective, as crucial to SC2 as it is to chess, even though SC2 is real-time. Execution in chess is about as deep as a puddl
      • SC is so much more loose and more open-world than Chess that it doesn't lend itself to memorization of moves like Chess and its rigid structure do.

        Do the words "Build order" ring any bells for you? They are as rigidly defined and memorized as any chess opening.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      That's like saying that you can't call a bobcat a "fast, strong cat" because cheetahs exist.

    • by tofarr (2467788)
      I am not a high level chess or Starcraft player, but it has always been my impression that due to the fact that it is turn based, chess tends to be quite single threaded - You analyse the available moves, form a strategy, and updating your strategy as the situation requires. Starcraft is more like trying to keep multiple threads of execution in your head concurrently - no single one of them is overly complex, but the player who can more effectively multi task is usually the winner.

      Both require adaptation
  • But this new study, published in PLOS ONE, shows that video gaming can also affect higher-level cognitive functions.

    do you really believe studies from a magazine that cant even spell it's own name right.

  • We've already made such observations with chimps.
    Why is it surprising it works with women too?

  • Pick up a math or problem solving book and go through it! Seriously. I wasted so much time in my 20s playing Quake 3 and Starcraft, it isn't even funny. I was pretty good at it and quitting wasn't easy. What I would give to have that time back to actually do something productive.
  • If playing Starcraft could boost your cognitive flexibility, then playing Zero-K could shoot it through the roof all the way to the moon and back.
  • Some geek finally figured out the best way to get a bunch of women to play video games while letting him study them doing so.

  • From what? Where you get to be if you spend 15 hours a day playing other video games? Great.

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