Category Archives: Addiction

Gamer ‘Improvement’ Studies Are Flawed

A new article from a number of psychology researchers attempts to throw cold water on studies that claim to show that playing games leads to important cognitive benefits.

A number of studies have shown that playing a wide variety of video games can lead to improvements in visual acuity, hand-eye coordination, cognition and memory.

But in a new piece written for Frontiers in Cognition magazine (and thoroughly summarized in this Gamasutra blog post), FSU assistant professor Walter Boot, psychology doctoral student Daniel Blakely and University of Illinois collaborator Daniel Simons point out methodological flaws in many of these studies that they say throw the results into question.

Though these studies routinely show gamers have higher cognitive abilities than non-gamers, the authors argue that this could simply mean that those with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to become gamers, rather than that the games themselves are imparting any specific benefit.

Fliers seeking study participants that are “expert” gamers are could heighten this self-selection bias, the authors argue, by signaling that participants should be able to “perform on challenging, often game-like computer tests of cognition.”

In addition, gamers may be more motivated to perform well in these tests because they “come into the lab knowing exactly how they are expected to perform,” as Blakely puts it, while the novices have no such motivation.

While the authors don’t entirely discount the possibility that games could have positive cognitive effects, they say no study yet has met the methodological “gold standard” required to help prove the relationship.

In future studies, the authors suggest researchers select participants covertly, using surveys in which video game experience is just one of a number of evaluated metrics, and account more for other possible confounding variables that could lead to observed differences.

In 2009, a French research study found that playing the popular Brain Age series of titles did not lead to the cognitive improvements suggested by publisher Nintendo and Japanese neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima.

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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Addiction, Gaming


Quit Smoking For An Improved Personality

Young adults who quit smoking are less impulsive and neurotic than those who are still smoking.

The new study “Smoking Desistance and Personality Change in Emerging and Young Adulthood,” which will be published by the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, found a relationship between smoking cessation and improved personality.

According to Andrew Littlefield, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri, “The data indicate that for some young adults smoking is impulsive. That means that 18-year-olds are acting without a lot of forethought and favor immediate rewards over long term negative consequences.

They might say, ‘I know smoking is bad for me, but I’m going to do it anyway.’ However, we find individuals who show the most decreases in impulsivity also are more likely quit smoking. If we can target anti-smoking efforts at that impulsivity, it may help the young people stop smoking.”

Compared people, aged 18-35, who smoked with those who had quit smoking, researchers found that individuals who smoked were higher in two distinct personality traits during young adulthood — impulsivity and neuroticism.

Littlefield added, “Smokers at age 18 had higher impulsivity rates than non-smokers at age 18, and those who quit tended to display the steepest declines in impulsivity between ages 18 and 25. However, as a person ages and continues to smoke, smoking becomes part of a regular behavior pattern and less impulsive. The motives for smoking later in life – habit, craving, loss of control and tolerance – are key elements of smoking dependence and appear to be more independent of personality traits.”

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Addiction