Something All Kids (& Parents) Should Know About Video Games

Did you play an hour of video games today? If you said no, then you are going to want to read the rest of this…

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Sian Beilock’s book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. In addition to explaining how writing down our thoughts before we take a big test can increase our test scores, Beilock wrote about a topic that could be very important to young people everywhere.

Beilock showed that playing action video games can improve your brainpower.

Yes, you read that correctly. Spending multiple hours a week playing games like Call of Duty and Gears of War actually improves core cognitive abilities.

To explain this, Beilock used a study where college students with little previous video game experience were asked to play Medal of Honor for ten days in a row. The examiners explained that Medal of Honor was chosen because the “wartime objectives require working-memory. Players must constantly move their attention from one aspect of the game to another so that they do not miss incoming enemies or new developments. While doing this, they must also keep their mission goals updated and fresh in their minds. In short, players must juggle a number of tasks at once and, to succeed, they can’t drop the ball on any front.”

The study found that after playing Medal of Honor an hour a day for ten days, the students exhibited improved memory and attention abilities on a number of different tasks. It appeared that the better the students got at the game, the better their attention and memory skills got outside the game.

As a 14 year old, I would have loved hearing about this study. I would have used it as ammo anytime my parents told me to stop playing video games.

But, I guess, as a 14 year old I never would have actually read this story because I would have been too busy playing video games all day.

That is another thing that Beilock finds. It appears that the benefits of playing video games occur only after an hour of play a day. Playing for eight hours a day has diminishing returns in improving brain power.

The old adage used to be, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  I would like to recommend a new saying for today’s generation.

“An hour of video games a day will increase your pay.”

Sounds like a good bumper sticker to me.

The Cure to Choking Under Pressure

As I mentioned in an earlier post that discussed the findings of Adam Grant, writing can go a long way in boosting our happiness, heath and productivity.   Can writing also prevent people from chocking under pressure?

In the book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, author Sian Beilock looked at why certain people fail on a big stage, despite having the knowledge and ability to succeed.  As part of her research, Beilock conducted a study that asked a high-achieving group of students to take a difficult math test.

To increase the stress, the students were told that they would be videotaped during the test and teachers and professors would be watching the tapes to gauge the student’s performance.  The students were also told that if they were to pass, they would be rewarded with $20.

After telling the students of the high stakes, some of the students were asked to write for ten minutes about their feelings and concerns regarding the test they were about to take.  The rest of the students were told to wait patiently for ten minutes while the teacher passed out the test materials.

Beilock was amazed at what she found.  The students who wrote for ten minutes before the test performed 15 percent better than the students who were told to wait for ten minutes.

Could writing down your worries really stop you from chocking under pressure?

Beilock determined that “disclosing negative information and labeling it as such frees your mind from unwanted thoughts and helps you focus on something other than the negative.”  Written expression can help people thrive under pressure.

I was not a great test taker as a student.  I would study and be well prepared, but the bigger the stakes, the more I seemed to psych myself out and focus on the magnitude of the test.

I wish I would have known about Beilock’s study back then.  I would be interested to see if my test scores would have been better if I just took ten minutes before the exams to acknowledge my fear and free my mind.

While I may not be able to go back and retake the SAT, I can still apply these findings to my life today.  When presented with a stressful task or job, hopefully I will remember to take time to write down my feelings and concerns.

What is an example of a stressful situation that may occur in your everyday life?  Do you think that writing down your worries and getting them off your chest and onto paper would improve your performance in that situation? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Thanks to Master isolated images & for the photo used on the homepage.