Researchers who gathered in Boston for the American Psychological Association convention detailed a series of studies suggesting video games can be powerful learning tools — from increasing younger students’ problem-solving potential to improving the suturing skills of laparoscopic surgeons.
One study even looked at whether playingWorld of Warcraft, the world’s biggest multiplayer online game, can improve scientific thinking.
The conclusion? Certain types of video games can have benefits beyond the virtual thrills of blowing up demons.
In one Fordham University study, 122 students in fifth, sixth and seventh grades were asked to think out loud for 20 minutes while playing a game they had never seen before. Researchers studied the children’s statements to see if playing the game improved cognitive and perceptual skills.
While older children seemed more interested in just playing the game, younger children showed more interest in setting up a series of short-term goals needed to help them learn the game.
“The younger kids are focusing more on their planning and problem solving while they are actually playing the game, while adolescents are focusing less on their planning and strategizing and more on the here and now,” said Fordham psychologist Fran Blumberg, who conducted the research last year and plans to submit it for publication. “They’re thinking less strategically than the younger kids.”
Studies by Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile and Dr. James Rosser, chief of minimally invasive surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, compared surgeons who play video games to those who don’t.
The edge went to gamer surgeons, they found, even after taking into account differences in age, years of medical training and the number of laparoscopic surgeries performed. In laparoscopic procedures, surgeons use small incisions, thin surgical tools and video cameras to see inside the body.