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.
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