New study doubts if playing video games is related to cognitive abilities

This week I saw a headline in a local newspaper claiming that you can get smarter from playing Tetris. Sounds good, and there are some studies actually suggesting that playing video games is related to cognitive abilities. But the results of this new study are less positive and even suggest that maybe the previous studies could be suffering from a flaw:

In Experiment 1, we examined the data using an extremegroups design, as has been done previously in the literature, and found a number of significant effects suggesting that video-game players outperformed non-video-game players on a variety of cognitive measures. However, when we analyzed the data in Experiments 1 and 2 using the full range of subjects, many of these effects were no longer significant and were very weak in magnitude.


These results are in direct contrast with those of many prior studies that have suggested a strong relationship between video-game experience and cognitive abilities. One potential reason for these discrepant findings is that many prior studies relied on relatively small sample sizes and extreme-groups designs, which resulted in overestimated effect sizes and increased likelihood of Type 1 errors.


Overall, the current results suggest weak to nonexistent relations between video-game experience—across a variety of different games—and fundamental cognitive abilities (working memory, fluid intelligence, attention control, and speed of processing). In order to fruitfully examine whether playing video games is related to cognitive abilities, future research should examine the full range of subjects (i.e., not rely exclusively on extremegroups analyses), should rely on sufficiently large sample sizes to estimate stable correlational effects, and should examine these relations across a number of similar measures thought to represent the constructs of interest (ideally using latent-variable techniques).

Abstract of the study:

The relations between video-game experience and cognitive abilities were examined in the current study. In two experiments, subjects performed a number of working memory, fluid intelligence, and attention-control measures and filled out a questionnaire about their video-game experience. In Experiment 1, an extreme-groups analysis indicated that experienced video-game players outperformed nonplayers on several cognitive-ability measures. However, in Experiments 1 and 2, when analyses examined the full range of subjects at both the task level and the latentconstruct level, nearly all of the relations between video-game experience and cognitive abilities were near zero. These results cast doubt on recent claims that playing video games leads to enhanced cognitive abilities. Statistical and methodological issues with prior studies of video-game experience are discussed along with recommendations for future studies.

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