All those hours you 'wasted' on gaming as a kid might have been useful after all

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Always had the idea that the hours you spent behind your Nintendo, Xbox, PC or Playstation must have been good for something? You can now provide that vague notion with a scientific basis. A recently published study in the Journal of Communication by Karin Fikkers (University of Utrecht), Jessica Piotrowski (University of Amsterdam) and Patti Valkenburg (University of Amsterdam) shows that a certain type of intelligence increases through gaming.

Fluid intelligence

We are talking about so-called fluid intelligence, the ability to solve new problems by recognizing patterns, making connections and reasoning logically. Fluid intelligence is the counterpart of crystallized intelligence, which revolves around long-term memory and general development. Progress in this area has also been measured, albeit to a more limited extent.

Several studies indicate that children have become steadily smarter since the 1950s. Scientists relate the increased intelligence in recent years to the playing of computer games, because that is precisely where problem-solving ability is trained. The question remained whether children who have a larger fluid intelligence are more likely to play games or whether playing games increased fluid intelligence.

The NeuroRacer study

To test this, researchers were able to use data from a large research project funded by an ERC Advanced Grant that Professor Patti Valkenburg received in 2009. Her project aims to better understand how entertainment (such as games and TV programs) has an effect on the cognitive development, aggression and ADHD of certain children and adolescents.

Jessica Piotrowski, a researcher in this project, became interested in the relationship between gaming and intelligence because of the 2013 NeuroRacer study. In this study researchers from the University of California found that elderly people started to function better in daily life by playing the racing game NeuroRacer (a game that requires multi-tasking skills). The hypothesis of Flikkers, Piotrowski and Valkenburg was that, like the before mentioned elderly people, children that play video games on a daily basis might reap similar benefits.

To find out, researchers from the Center for Research on Children, Adolescents and the Media (Ccam) followed 934 children aged 3 to 7 for a period of 4 years. The result of the study is that gaming does indeed seem to cause an increase in fluid intelligence. The reverse could not be established. However, the research results are not clear enough yet; further investigation is therefore required.

About CcaM

CcaM is part of the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) and conducts research into the role of media in the lives of children and adolescents. The research has two goals: first, to map the media use of this group. Secondly, CcaM wants to uncover the mechanisms behind the use of media and the effects thereof. CcaM focuses on both entertainment and information in traditional media, and on interpersonal communication in new media, such as games, apps, virtual reality and social media. The researchers at CcaM use theories and methods from psychology and sociology, pedagogy and communication sciences.

Source: University of Amsterdam press release

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