The influence of video games on cognitive and noncognitive skills

In one article, I talked about the amount of time South African kids spend in front of screens and that the department of education needs to take advantage. This article aims to shed light on how video games can influence cognitive and noncognitive skills.

A study titled ‘The Power of Play: The Effects of Portal 2 and Lumosity on Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills’ tested 77 undergraduates who were randomly assigned to play either a popular video game (Portal 2) or a popular brain training game (Lumosity) for 8 hours. Before and after gameplay, participants completed a set of online tests related to problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence.

The aim of the study was to extend the growing body of experimental research examining the relationships between video game play and cognitive and noncognitive skills.

The researchers made the following hypotheses:

  1. Portal 2 outcome scores for problem solving, spatial skills, and persistence will be comparable to (or greater than) the Lumosity outcomes on the same constructs and on specific measures.
  2. Players in both the Portal 2 and Lumosity conditions will show improved pre-test-to-post-test gains relative to both facets of problem solving skill: rule application and cognitive flexibility.
  3. Players in Portal 2 will improve all three facets of spatial skill: figural, vista, and environmental while players in Lumosity will only improve their figural and vista skills.
  4. In-game performance measures in Portal 2 and Lumosity will predict post-test scores in problem solving and spatial skills, after controlling for pre-test scores.

The report states that potential participants were screened using an online questionnaire on prior game experiences. A total of 218 students applied to participate, and 159 were approved to participate.

The results of this study suggest that playing Portal 2 can have a noticeable impact on certain important cognitive skills relative to a control group that explicitly claims to improve cognitive skills (Portal 2 makes no such claims).

The researchers are quoted as follows:

Regarding hypothesis 1, we found significant differences between conditions for all three of our primary constructs: problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence – all showing an advantage for Portal 2 over Lumosity.

Regarding hypothesis 2, there is no evidence that playing either Portal 2 or Lumosity improves specific problem solving skills as reflected in external pre-test – post-test gains per test.

For hypothesis 3, we found partial support that playing Portal 2 improved subjects’ performance on small- and large-scale spatial tasks. Thus the repeated requirement in Portal 2 to apply and practice their spatial skills to solve problems appears to have transferred to increased performance on two measures of spatial skill – namely the Mental Rotation Test (MRT) and the Virtual Spatial Navigation Assessment (VSNA).

Regarding hypothesis 4, we found that performance in Portal 2 predicts gains in Insight, MRT, and VSNA scores even after controlling for the respective pre-test knowledge. Additionally, we found that performance in Lumosity predicts Raven’s post-test scores after controlling for pre-test scores. This suggests that increased performance in games can yield improvement of cognitive skills.

Any education system willing to be the best has to have an open mind to any approach as much as possible.

About Mduduzi Mbiza 111 Articles
Mduduzi Mbiza is a creator. Author of the book, ‘Human Education: The Voyage of Discovery’.