Previous evidence points to a causal link between playing action video games and enhanced cognition and perception. However, benefits of playing other video games are under-investigated. We examined whether playing non-action games also improves cognition. Hence, we compared transfer effects of an action and other non-action types that required different cognitive demands.
We instructed 5 groups of non-gamer participants to play one game each on a mobile device (iPhone/iPod Touch) for one hour a day/five days a week over four weeks (20 hours). Games included action, spatial memory, match-3, hidden- object, and an agent-based life simulation. Participants performed four behavioral tasks before and after video game training to assess for transfer effects. Tasks included an attentional blink task, a spatial memory and visual search dual task, a visual filter memory task to assess for multiple object tracking and cognitive control, as well as a complex verbal span task. Action game playing eliminated attentional blink and improved cognitive control and multiple-object tracking. Match-3, spatial memory and hidden object games improved visual search performance while the latter two also improved spatial working memory. Complex verbal span improved after match-3 and action game training.
Cognitive improvements were not limited to action game training alone and different games enhanced different aspects of cognition. We conclude that training specific cognitive abilities frequently in a video game improves performance in tasks that share common underlying demands. Overall, these results suggest that many video game-related cognitive improvements may not be due to training of general broad cognitive systems such as executive attentional control, but instead due to frequent utilization of specific cognitive processes during game play. Thus, many video game training related improvements to cognition may be attributed to near-transfer effects.