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Greg West, Sara Stevens, Carson Pun, Jay Pratt; Video game playing enhances practical attentional skills. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):471. doi: 10.1167/8.6.471.
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Recent evidence has shown that habitual video game playing enhances a subset of visual-attentional skills. In this study, we investigated whether prolonged experience playing action video games can improve performance on tasks related to lifeguarding, a job where allocation of attention in the visual field can have life and death consequences. To examine this question, Video Game Players (VGPs) and Non-Video Game Players (NVGPs) were tested on two computerized lifesaving tasks and one conventional measure of attentional performance. To emulate lifeguarding performance, one task was a modified Useful Field of View / Multiple Object Tracking hybrid where we measured participants' ability to detect schematic ‘non-swimmers’, at either 10°, 20°, or 30°; from fixation, amongst a large group of ‘distractor’ swimmers. A second task used a Change Detection (CD) paradigm requiring participants to detect the absence of a swimmer in a naturalistic scene. Findings revealed that VGPs showed greater ‘non-swimmer’ detection accuracy at larger eccentricities from fixation; however no reliable group difference in CD performance was found. In addition, basic attentional performance was measured by having participants perform a Temporal Order Judgment task, using a step-function to calculate the amount of time the uncued target needed to appear before the cued target in order for both target items to be perceived as arriving simultaneously. VGPs were found to be more sensitive to the peripheral cue, thereby reliably lengthening the time the uncued target needed to appear before the cued target as compared to NVGPs. Overall, these findings show that playing action video games may improve performance on detecting certain events in the periphery (e.g., motion, onset, etc.), but do not necessarily facilitate the detection of changes presented within the foveal window.
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