Do Video Games Really Make Kids Smarter? Stay Tuned...
Do video games really make kids smarter? Stay tuned
Fri, Jan 24, 2003
By Richard Watts
VICTORIA -- A trio of scientists is planning to study whether video games, the bane of parents trying to get kids to finish their homework, might actually make children smarter.
The University of Victoria psychologists will try to determine whether they're high-tech time-wasters or if they have any intellectual benefits.
The researchers are interested in finding out what skills kids acquire playing video games and, more importantly, if they're transferable to other forms of activity, such as reading or solving a physics problem, said lead investigator Michael Masson.
"The basic interest is in examining whether by interacting with games of these sorts, our children are acquiring a level of skills that can translate into other useful forms of literacy," he said.
The three will be advertising for volunteers, aged 12 to 16 years, who have a certain level of experience in video games. The volunteers will be tested and their results compared with other volunteers who don't possess the same level of video game skills.
The $42,430 study is funded by the Canadian Language and Literary Research Network. Masson, who has a 15-year-old son who likes video games, said the group got the idea last spring while he and fellow researchers Daniel Bub and Christopher Lalonde, were attending a literacy conference in Ottawa.
The three were commiserating with each other over the amount of time their teenage children spend playing video games instead of reading. They wondered what their kids were really getting from these games.
All three had seen their kids spend hundreds of hours playing various games without ever seeming to get bored.
Their children told them the games are designed to get harder as the ability of the player improves, meaning they were acquiring skills as they played.
But, the psychologists wondered, just what are those cognitive skills and are they useful to other more general educational goals?
"Are they being shaped and if so, how are they being shaped?" said Lalonde. The researchers will focus on two types of games, one involving strategy, which will allow them to test subjects for the ability to plan and understand cause and effect.
The other game will replicate a physical experience, such as driving a car or flying a plane. Here, the kids will be tested to see if the games are providing an intuitive understanding of physics principles, such as centrifugal force or relative velocity.
The researchers will be avoiding games dominated by the visual effects of blood and gore.
"An awful lot of the violence in video games is just used as an attraction," said Lalonde. "We are more interested in the skills needed to play the games and how kids acquire these skills."
Surprisingly, almost no research has been done in this area despite the widespread presence of video games and computers in modern homes today, the group said.
Bub puts this down to intellectual snobbery.
"There is out there, I think, a prejudice that these games are simple-minded," said Bub. "We've all gone through life thinking these games are simply a waste of time and a distraction.
"What we haven't appreciated is they are the products of very complex and sophisticated designers." -- Canadian Press
Wow, finally a study about videogames that doesn't focus on violence. Actually sounds really interesting, any thoughts?
I will see you again, in a place where no Shadows fall.