Gaming makes you cleverer

We can all stop feeling guilty. Apparently gaming improves information processing skills, not just during play but in real-life situations as well.

Scientists from the University of Rochester examined all of the existing literature on video gaming and found quite a few surprises. For example, they found that avid players got faster not only on their game of choice, but on a variety of unrelated laboratory tests of reaction time.

Some observers have suggested that gamers are fast, but that they become less accurate as their speed of play increases. The new study found the opposite: gamers don’t lose accuracy either in the game or in lab tests as they get faster.

The scientists believe that this is a result of the gamer’s improved visual cognition. Playing video games enhances performance on mental rotation skills, visual and spatial memory, and tasks requiring divided attention.

The scientists conclude that training with video games may serve to reduce some of the cognitive declines that come with aging. And we can all let our children sit glued to the screen for hours, safe in the knowledge that they’re zapping their way to genius.

The full study is in Current Directions in Psychological Science.