Video Game Training Does Not Enhance Cognitive Ability: A Comprehensive Meta-Analytic Investigation

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Abstract

As a result of considerable potential scientific and societal implications, the possibility of enhancing cognitive ability by training has been one of the most influential topics of cognitive psychology in the last two decades. However, substantial research into the psychology of expertise and a recent series of meta-analytic reviews have suggested that various types of cognitive training (e.g., working memory training) benefit performance only in the trained tasks. The lack of skill generalization from one domain to different ones—that is, far transfer—has been documented in various fields of research such as working memory training, music, brain training, and chess. Video game training is another activity that has been claimed by many researchers to foster a broad range of cognitive abilities such as visual processing, attention, spatial ability, and cognitive control. We tested these claims with three random-effects meta-analytic models. The first meta-analysis (k = 310) examined the correlation between video game skill and cognitive ability. The second meta-analysis (k = 315) dealt with the differences between video game players and nonplayers in cognitive ability. The third meta-analysis (k = 359) investigated the effects of video game training on participants’ cognitive ability. Small or null overall effect sizes were found in all three models. These outcomes show that overall cognitive ability and video game skill are only weakly related. Importantly, we found no evidence of a causal relationship between playing video games and enhanced cognitive ability. Video game training thus represents no exception to the general difficulty of obtaining far transfer.

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