Action Video Games lead to Faster Decisions

CTV British Columbia - Video games improve decision-making skills: study - CTV News

Video games may not be a waste of time after all. A new study finds that playing certain kinds of games actually helps improve quick decision-making skills that can be used in all aspects of life, from driving to keeping track of friends in a crowd.

Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester report the findings of new research, which show video game players make faster decisions – not just "trigger happy" faster decisions, but accurate decisions.

Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions that are No Less Accurate : University of Rochester News

The researchers tested dozens of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not ordinarily video game players. They split the subjects into two groups. One group played 50 hours of the fast-paced action video games "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament," and the other group played 50 hours of the slow-moving strategy game "The Sims 2."

After this training period, all of the subjects were asked to make quick decisions in several tasks designed by the researchers. In the tasks, the participants had to look at a screen, analyze what was going on, and answer a simple question about the action in as little time as possible (i.e. whether a clump of erratically moving dots was migrating right or left across the screen on average). In order to make sure the effect wasn't limited to just visual perception, the participants were also asked to complete an analogous task that was purely auditory.

The action game players were up to 25 percent faster at coming to a conclusion and answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game playing peers.
A test subject attempts to determine whether the erratically moving dots on a computer screen are moving left or right on average during a study at the University of Rochester August 24, 2010.

Participants in a University of Rochester study, "Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games", by UR professor of brain and cognitive science Daphne Bavelier played 50 hours of video games over multiple weeks. Players who played action games like Call of Duty 2 (pictured here) made quicker decisions than those who played slow-paced strategy games like The Sims without sacrificing accuracy.

Current Biology - Improved Probabilistic Inference as a General Learning Mechanism with Action Video Games

Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 17, 1573-1579, 14 September 2010


  • Action video game experience is shown to improve probabilistic inference
  • Demonstrated via well-studied motion integration task and recent neural model
  • Generality of effect demonstrated with novel auditory decision-making task
  • Provides possible mechanism for wide transfer engendered by action game training