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Katherine Medford, Michael Sugarman, C. Shawn Green, E. Klobusicky, Daphne Bavelier; Reducing task switch cost with action video games. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):212. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.212.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The ability to quickly shift between tasks is a main determinant of executive control. Here we ask whether such an ability can be modified by action video game play using an adaptation of the Monsell, Sumner, and Waters (2003) paradigm in which subjects switch tasks predictably every four trials. In our first experiment, subjects switched between reporting the color or the shape of an object by means of either a manual or a vocal response (in separate blocks). Avid action video game players (VGPs) displayed a smaller cost in task switch than non-video game players (NVGPs), indicating an enhanced ability to efficiently shift between mental sets in habitual players of fast-paced games. Importantly, this effect was not restricted to manual responses, which are arguably well trained in VGPs, but also generalized to vocal responses. Experiment 2 confirmed that this effect was not specific to perceptual tasks but was also present in cognitive tasks by presenting digits and asking subjects to switch between an odd-even and a magnitude judgment task. Experiment 3 established the causal effect of action game play in switch cost reduction through 50 hours of training. Finally, experiment 4 investigates the effect of predictability with an unpredictable task switch paradigm, assessing whether the VGP advantage holds when an upcoming switch cannot be anticipated. Together these results indicate that the very act of playing action video games facilitates a key aspect of cognitive control, task switching.
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