Does gaming improve cognitive performance, or are we attracted to games which match our innate abilities? Or maybe a bit of both, plus years of practice? Is there a difference between native gamers and gamers as a second language?
Video game players outperform non-players on measures of basic attention and performance. Differences might result from exposure to video games or reflect other group differences. Research has suggested a causal link between video game experience and improved attentional skills (e.g., Green & Bavelier, 2003). We sought to replicate and extend these results. Expert/non-gamer performance was assessed on tasks tapping a wide range of abilities. Non-gamers played 20+ hours of an action video game, a puzzle game, or a real-time strategy game. Expert gamers and non-gamers differed on a number of basic cognitive skills: experts could track objects moving at greater speeds, better detected changes to objects stored in visual short-term memory, switched more quickly between tasks, and mentally rotated objects more efficiently. Strikingly, extensive video game practice did not substantially enhance performance for non-gamers on most cognitive tasks (except for a mental rotation task). Our results suggest that at least some differences between video game experts and non-gamers in basic cognitive performance result either from far more extensive video game experience or from pre-existing group differences in abilities that result in a self-selection effect.
Boot, W. R., Kramer, A. F., Simons, D. J., Fabiani, M., Gratton, G. (in press). The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control. Acta Psychologica.