Many people claim that video games make you smarter. However, intelligence is a broad concept, and we don’t know what effect video games have on it. Even then, lots of research has shown that video games can have a tangible impact on cognition. Let’s explore these in detail and answer the question, “Do video games make you smarter?”
Video games increase your attention span, improve decision making and problem-solving capabilities in competitive environments, and improve memory and learning. Video games improve the cognitive abilities that society values.
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Read further to learn how video games affect our cognitive capabilities.
Memory is closely related to attention. Therefore, since games improve attention, they would have an impact on memory as well. Let’s take a look at some research.
Most video games require a large amount of problem-solving. However, different games require different kinds of problem-solving.
Most video games, especially 3D ones, require gamers to develop excellent spatial skills to navigate complex environments. Let’s look at some studies that have looked at the relationship between video games and spatial intelligence.
Video games, especially action games, require quick, on-the-fly decision-making capabilities. Avid gamers can make decisions under pressure. Here are some findings from relevant research.
IQ is short for intelligence quotient. Researchers developed it to measure how well someone can use information and reasoning to answer questions or make predictions. IQ tests measure short-term and long-term memory and how quickly one can solve puzzles and recall information. It helps researchers check whether they are testing for the same “kind” of intelligence. However, it does not encapsulate the complexity of the mind. Other factors, such as social and economic status, influence IQ. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is also a significant contributor to success.
IQ is a predictor of many things, but it does not define intelligence. It is generally a good predictor of a person’s success in life since the more intelligent a person is, the more likely they are to solve problems, learn new things, and get ahead in life. However, it can only predict how well people will do in particular situations, such as science, engineering, and art. Success in life requires more than just intelligence — it depends on persistence, ambition, opportunity, and luck.
Games select and filter for higher fluid IQs because games adequately, intellectually challenge us as kids when school was not enough. There are studies that children crave challenge and mastery, which games provide for them, and that creates a feedback loop.
A study conducted at the University of York found a correlation between young people’s skill at two popular video games (Dota 2 and League of Legends) and high intelligence levels.
The study set up two groups: the first group demonstrated their skill at League of Legends and then took a standard pen-and-paper intelligence test. They split the second group into Dota 2 players and gamers who played shooting games (Destiny and Battlefield 3).
The first group found that MOBA players tended to have higher IQs – a correlation seen in more traditional strategy games such as chess. In the second group, the researchers found that while MOBA players’ performance and IQ remained consistent as they got older, while the shooter game players’ performance declined after their teens.
While games can be good at indicators of a person’s IQ, that does not necessarily mean that they boost IQ.
Smarter people are more likely to get addicted to video games because they may not be adequately challenged in school or at work, and video games fulfill this need for them. To recognize and overcome gaming addiction, you need to acknowledge who you are as a gamer. Gamers are, in fact, smarter than the average person. While we value intelligence in society, being smart is not enough to be successful.
Gamers use their high IQ to justify their lack of success, and it becomes an ego boost. Therefore, high intelligence becomes a justification for not needing to work hard and aim for success in life. That is how intelligence leads to avoidance.
Check out this video in which Dr. K talks about how intelligence leads to avoidance:
Some factors that influence video game training studies might bring the accuracy of these studies into question. A paper by Boot et al. discussed game training studies that tell the participants about the nature of the study. That can easily lead to bias, as the participants know whether they are in the experimental group or the control group.
For example, let’s assume that a study that aims to test the impact of action games on decision-making recruits gamers and non-gamers. It discloses the nature and aim of the study to the participants. It also tells them whether they will be in the experimental group or the control group.
The experimental group trains on an action game while the control group trains on a strategy game. After training, the researchers administer a test to both groups. It aims to measure the speed and accuracy of their decision-making. Since both groups know the aim of the study, the experimental group believes that they will do well on the test. Therefore, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, and they try their hardest. Meanwhile, the control group does not put in as much effort because they think that they are expected to match up to the experimental group. As a result, they don’t try hard and don’t perform too well.
Such an experiment does not control well for placebo. Unfortunately, many video game training studies are structured this way.
Intelligence is complicated and not understood very well. Therefore, it is hard to measure if video games make you smarter. However, we can measure aspects of our cognition and how video games affect it. It is also unclear to what degree video games boost our cognition. That is because they select for people whose attentional, memory, learning, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities are already above average. Despite all that, it is safe to say that gamers tend to rank higher for these cognitive abilities than the rest of the population.
If you feel that your gaming habit is affecting your life, we can help. Sign up to work with a HealthyGamer Coach, trained by Dr. Alok Kanojia himself. HealthyGamer Coaches are gamers who have taken control of their life, and know exactly what you’re going through.
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