Iowa State University researchers have found kids who spend lots of time playing video games have more difficulty focusing on other tasks, like school work. I.S.U. psychology professor Rob West, a co-author of the study, says this probably isn’t a surprise to parents who nag their kids to shut off the video games.
“In a sense there is kind of an, ‘Ah ha! I knew that!'” West says. “We’ve got some other data from folks here at I.S.U. that have shown if you look at adolescents who report being bacially addicted to video games they have higher incidence rates of attention deficit, they tend to report lower grades in school and number of kind of negative outcomes for adolescents.”
This new I.S.U. research found kids who play high-action video games for at least 40 hours a week had more difficulty focusing on tasks that require their long-term attention. West says the study raises other questions. “Is it that the video games are actually causing this,” West asks, “or is it that people who choose to play a lot of games have this reduced ability to stay on task?”
West is working on another study which asks people who don’t play video games to start playing them for hours at a time — to see if they develop this inability to focus on tasks. “One of the things that got us interested in this line of research, too, is that there’s a lot of work that has shown beneficial effects of experience with the same types of games in terms of basic visual processing, so that’s a benefit, but that might be a cost?” West says. “…Are we producing some negative effects that might not have been considered in previous work?”
West is director of the cognitive psychology program at I.S.U. Another Iowa State professor and a graduate student collaborated with West on the study which was published online this week in the latest issue of “Psychophysiology” — a professional journal.