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Renjie Li, Vikranth R. Bejjanki, Zhonglin Lu, Alexandre Pouget, Daphne Bavelier; Playing action video games leads to better perceptual templates. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):860. doi: 10.1167/9.8.860.
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Action video game playing substantially improves visual performance; however, the source of this improvement remains unclear. Here we use the equivalent external noise technique to characterize the mechanism(s) by which action video games may facilitate performance (Lu & Dosher, 1998).
In a first study, Action Video Game Players (VGPs) and Non-Action Video Game Players (NVGPs) performed a foveal orientation identification task at different external noise levels. Threshold versus external noise contrast (TvC) functions were measured at two performance criterion levels. VGPs showed lower thresholds than NVGPs with a marked difference at high noise levels. Fitting the data with the Perceptual Template Model indicated that two independent factors contribute to the superior performance of VGPs: an 11% additive noise reduction and a 25% external noise exclusion.
The causal effect of action video game playing was confirmed in a 50 hour training study, whereby NVGPs were randomly divided into an experimental group that played action video games and a control group that played control games. TvC functions were measured before and after training. The same change as in VGPs was observed in action game trainees, whereas no change in external noise reduction was observed in the control group. This work establishes that playing action video games leads to robust external noise exclusion, consistent with the use of better matched perceptual templates.
To confirm that action video game playing leads to the development of better templates for the task at hand, we also used a probabilistic neural model of orientation selectivity. We found that changes in TvC curves induced by action video game playing can be captured by changing one parameter - the strength of the feedforward connections in the model. Together, this work demonstrates that action video game playing improves performance by allowing gamers to develop better task-relevant templates than non gamers.
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