Do video gamers have an advantage in learning?

Perhaps, at least according to ScienceDaily, who has a write up of a press release on a paper Games people play: How video games improve probabilistic learning. The paper is unfortunately behind a pay-wall, but the ScienceDaily write-up describes it thus:

Neuropsychologists of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum let video gamers compete against non-gamers in a learning competition. During the test, the video gamers performed significantly better and showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas that are relevant for learning. Prof Dr Boris Suchan, Sabrina Schenk and Robert Lech report their findings in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

This sounds interesting, and would obviously be good ammunition for all the young people wanting to play more computer.

Unfortunately, from the rest of the description of the article, it might be too early to start celebrating.

The research team studied 17 volunteers who — according to their own statement — played action-based games on the computer or a console for more than 15 hours a week. The control group consisted of 17 volunteers who didn’t play video games on a regular basis. Both teams did the so-called weather prediction task, a well-established test to investigate the learning of probabilities. The researchers simultaneously recorded the brain activity of the participants via magnetic resonance imaging.

There are some serious problems with the paper, as it is described.

First of all, the sample is tiny – there is 34 people in it. And since it consists of volunteers, the participants are self-selected.

Also, it appears that there were no blinding. We know that there are many ways to affect how well someone does on a test – even by just reminding people of stereotypes just before the test. This might be the case here.

On top of that, they have used a type of test, which could very likely appeal to the same people, to whom computer games are appealing.

There might be something here, but let’s not start forcing kids to play computer games just yet.


  1. robert79 says

    It could also be that people who are good at learning have enough spare time left that they play more video games.

  2. Annesofie says

    Honestly, id like to see a secondary, double-blind run containing non-gamers, gamers and board-gamers. My bias, is the assumption that people that seek out mentally challenging pass-times, are good learners in general.