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Matthew W. G. Dye, Daphne Bavelier; Playing video games enhances visual attention in children. Journal of Vision 2004;4(11):40. doi: 10.1167/4.11.40.
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Previous research has documented specific changes in visual attention as a result of playing action-based video games (Green and Bavelier, 2003). Typically, these games require players to make responses to selected stimuli, distribute their attention across the visual field, and orient to multiple moving targets. We sought to extend these findings by examining whether children who play these types of video games display changes in visual spatial attention relative to non-action game playing children. A total of 114 children between the ages of 7 and 17 years were tested. Children were classified post-hoc as ‘action game players’ if they reported playing first-person perspective action video games or ball-based sports video games in the 12 months prior to testing. Other children, were classified as non-action gamers, even though they may have played other kinds of video game. The effect of age on the measures tested was first assessed by comparing 7–10, 11–13 and 14–17 years old. The impact of action games was then evaluated by comparing players and non-players across these age ranges. Consistent with previous findings, game players exhibited larger flanker compatibility effects (using the ANT — Fan et al., 2002) and better performance on a child-friendly Useful Field of View task (Ball et al., 1993). These findings indicate enhanced visuo-spatial attention in young action gamers compared to non-action gamers, as observed in adults. Furthermore, action gamers could apprehend more objects as measured by a ball tracking task (Pylyshyn and Storm, 1988). Thus, playing video games enhances specific aspects of visual spatial attention in children, as in adults. These results indicate that the normal developmental time course of visual spatial attention is determined by maturational factors, but also plastic in the face of action gaming. This opens the possibility of using video gaming to potentiate visual attention skills in patients, young or old, with visual deficits.
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