Meta-Analysis of Action Video Game Impact on Perceptual, Attentional, and Cognitive Skills

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Abstract

The ubiquity of video games in today’s society has led to significant interest in their impact on the brain and behavior and in the possibility of harnessing games for good. The present meta-analyses focus on one specific game genre that has been of particular interest to the scientific community—action video games, and cover the period 2000–2015. To assess the long-lasting impact of action video game play on various domains of cognition, we first consider cross-sectional studies that inform us about the cognitive profile of habitual action video game players, and document a positive average effect of about half a standard deviation (g = 0.55). We then turn to long-term intervention studies that inform us about the possibility of causally inducing changes in cognition via playing action video games, and show a smaller average effect of a third of a standard deviation (g = 0.34). Because only intervention studies using other commercially available video game genres as controls were included, this latter result highlights the fact that not all games equally impact cognition. Moderator analyses indicated that action video game play robustly enhances the domains of top-down attention and spatial cognition, with encouraging signs for perception. Publication bias remains, however, a threat with average effects in the published literature estimated to be 30% larger than in the full literature. As a result, we encourage the field to conduct larger cohort studies and more intervention studies, especially those with more than 30 hours of training.

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