Videogames for Cognitive Training?

There were a few inter­est­ing research papers pre­sent­ed at the last  Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion con­ven­tions around the theme:

Play­ing Video Games Offers Learn­ing Across Life Span, Say Studies
— Skills Trans­fer to Class­room, Sur­gi­cal Pro­ce­dures, Sci­en­tif­ic Think­ing (press release)

Prob­a­bly the most inter­est­ing study was that of 303 laparo­scop­ic sur­geons, which “showed that sur­geons who played video games requir­ing spa­tial skills and hand dex­ter­i­ty and then per­formed a drill test­ing these skills were sig­nif­i­cant­ly faster at their first attempt and across all 10 tri­als than the sur­geons who did not the play video games first.”

The note goes fur­ther to explain the impli­ca­tions from this research:

The big pic­ture is that there are sev­er­al dimen­sions on which games have effects, includ­ing the amount they are played, the con­tent of each game, what you have to pay atten­tion to on the screen, and how you con­trol the motions,” said Gen­tile. “This means that games are not “good’ or bad,’ but are pow­er­ful edu­ca­tion­al tools and have many effects we might not have expect­ed they could.”

Very thought­ful quote. Please note a few ele­ments about the study and the quote itself:

- “video games requir­ing spa­tial skills and hand dex­ter­i­ty”: mean­ing, that pre­cise type of videogame. Oth­er types may have oth­er effects on cog­ni­tion, depend­ing on, as the note says, “the con­tent of each game”, defin­ing con­tent as what play­ers need to do in order to suc­ceed at the game.
— “laparo­scop­ic sur­geons”: it is clear that these are impor­tant skills for a sur­geon and not so impor­tant, say, for an econ­o­mist. Per­haps more econ­o­mists should be play­ing Age of Empires?

-  “are pow­er­ful edu­ca­tion­al tools”: yes, and in fact that is the premise of the Seri­ous Games field, but there also an unspo­ken fac­tor here: effi­cien­cy. If the main goal is enter­tain­ment, then the more hours of fun, the bet­ter. If the goal is a func­tion­al out­come (cog­ni­tive or real-life), then one would want the inter­ven­tion that works in the least amount of time. In oth­er words, could a videogame be specif­i­cal­ly designed for laparo­scop­ic sur­geons to improve the cog­ni­tive skills they need most for their jobs, and would that be more effi­cient than spend­ing X amount of hours play­ing a vari­ety of gen­er­al games? Prob­a­bly, as you can explore in this inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher on cog­ni­tive simulations.

For an in-depth mar­ket overview of Cog­ni­tive Train­ing trends and com­pa­nies, you can check out our Mar­ket Report.

Relat­ed articles:

- Cog­ni­tive Train­ing: Inter­view with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg

- Can Intel­li­gence Be Trained? Mar­tin Buschkuehl shows how


  1. Encefalus on August 26, 2008 at 4:00

    Hey there. I wrote your arti­cle and I found it very inter­est­ing for two rea­sons 1)I have sup­port­ed some of these the­o­ries myself for years 2)I am an avid gamer and I need an excuse for my addic­tion. I left you a track­back above, if you want see my arti­cle and make a com­ment. I also com­ment­ed on the inter­view you link above(If you’re inter­est­ed, I’ve writ­ten one more arti­cle on the sub­ject, at Thnx again!

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