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Running head: VIDEO GAMES AND WORKING MEMORY

Playing First Person Shooter Video Games Improves Visual-Spatial Working Memory Amanda L. Gannon University of Saskatchewan Psy 255.3 62: Human Memory 4 November 2013

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Proclamation In submitting this paper, I attest that this paper and any version of this paper has not been previously or concurrently submitted for credit in another course by myself or anyone else.

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Abstract There is an increasing interest in video games and how they impact individual performance and behavior. First person shooter video games require a flexible mindset that can react quickly to a rapidly changing environment. Both audio and visual stimuli are taken into immediate working memory, requiring information to be held in visual-spatial working memory while performing simple and complex tasks. Four different journal articles will be used to support the idea that individuals who play first person shooter video games perform better at cognitive working memory tasks than those individuals who do not play video games regularly. There is positive support for the thesis of this paper, but with a positive angle comes some possible complications to the studies at hand. A major complication is the fact that individual differences are not taken into account, and these individual differences are an unknown that could account for why some participants have better working memory than others. Along with the support for the thesis of this paper comes an approach to future studies. The studies in this paper provide possible guidelines for how to improve the future of working memory and how it can help individuals with working memory deficits.

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Playing First Person Shooter Video Games Improves Visual-Spatial Working Memory Recently, video games have had a conflicting reputation in the media. Focus has been on the negative aspects, including violence and impulsivity that are portrayed by the people who play video games. Recent research has showed there are many positive aspects to playing video games, with focus on cognition. Studies have been done to see how exactly video games improve cognition. Areas of cognition that have been shown to improve with playing video games include attention and control. With attention and control are improvements of memory and executive control. Four different journal articles that this paper will discuss show a variety of aspects in cognition that are improved when playing video games. These studies are as followed: The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control; Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults; Enhancing Cognition with Video Games: A Multiple Game Training Study; and Action video gaming and cognitive control: playing first person shooter games is associated with improvement in working memory by not action inhibition. Together these studies will enforce the positive aspects of video games on working memory. This paper will focus on improvements of working memory when playing video games. This paper will attempt to prove that playing first person shooter video games improves visual-spatial working memory. To break down what this paper is really discussing, first, there will be a glance at what the thesis is really looking at. There will be an elaboration of the concepts and ideas that are trying to be proved in this paper. There will then be a look at the different studies that provide concise evidence in favor of the thesis of this paper. Followed will be a discussion, looking at possible objections to the points discussed in the paper, the implications and support of the studies in regards to the thesis at hand, and how these implications can apply to future studies in cognition.

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First person shooter video games are a major category of video games. The term first person shooter video games and action video games will be used interchangeably in this paper. First person is when the player views the game in the eyes of the video game character. Everything is in a first person point of view. Games that operate in first person include Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, and Battlefield. These games simulate warfare that requires precise attention to maps, movement, sound, and a constantly changing environment. There are various types of stimuli that require precise attention to detail such as how the map is laid out in regards to where enemies can hide and ambush, and various sounds that are held accountable by just the map background compared to enemy foot steps and other various sounds that could notify immediate danger. Working memory is similar to mental juggling. By that, meaning the immediate short-term memory can handle certain information while working with other information at the same time. There are different types of working memory. Verbal working memory includes tasks that involve tasks that follow verbal instructions. Visual-spatial working memory includes tasks that involve holding images in mind. The focus of this paper will be on visual-spatial working memory. When playing video games, the requirement for mental juggling is crucial because of all the attention to details as mentioned earlier. Support for Thesis First Study The first study that this paper will look at was done in an article titled The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control by Boot, Kramer, Simons, Fabiani, & Gratton (2008). In this article, the focus is on the difference between expert and non-gamer individuals who complete tasks involving cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, and

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executive control. Participants in the study were gathered using flyers posted in campus buildings and businesses or through advertisements online (Boot et al., 2008). The individuals who responded to these flyers and advertisements completed a survey of their video game habits. These individuals were assignment to three different types of video game practice conditions, which were Medal of Honor, an action game, Rise of Nations, a strategy game, or Tetris, a puzzle game. There was then a control group who was assigned to no practice conditions (Boot et al., 2008). For the purposes of this paper, there will be a focus on the individuals who played Medal of Honor, an action game, versus individuals who had no practice conditions. Medal of Honor is a first person action game that focuses on combat. The main objective of the game is to kill enemies and avoid being killed. The game requires players to find single and multiple enemies at a distance or in close quarters. The requirement of remembering location and identity of objects in the environment relies on visual-spatial working memory (Boot et. al, 2008). In total, each participant in the practicing group played 21.5 hours of the game. There were a number of statistics taken to show gameplay performance. Statistics taken into consideration included enemies killed, number of hits taken, and firing accuracy. The gameplay started at the tutorial, and continued through each mission, progressively becoming more difficult. To measure improvement of gameplay, the final game session consisted of a second trial of first mission completed in the game, and that was compared to the first trial of that mission at the beginning of the study. The groups of expert and non-gamer participants who played assigned games and who did not play assigned games then received a variety of cognitive tasks to measure cognition. These tasks focused on visual and spatial attention, spatial processing and spatial memory, and executive control (Boot et al., 2008). The results of the study showed that all game groups

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improved significantly. The statistics that were taken for the Medal of Honor gameplay improved significantly when comparing the first walkthrough of the first mission to the last walkthrough of the first mission (Boot et al., 2008). Results from the different tasks showed that gamers had a slight advantage over non-gamers in different tasks, but when it came to tracking items at high speeds and accuracy of change detection, gamers significantly outperformed non-gamers (Boot et al., 2008). These results relate significantly to the thesis of this paper. The results support the idea that spatial working memory is improved through practice in first person shooter games. Spatial working memory includes the ability to pay attention to multiple items during different tasks, and because it is within short-term memory, it is important that it must be done quickly before it falls out of awareness and important details in missions have been missed or forgotten. A detail that can be brought into question is the fact that when it came to extensive video game practice for non-gamers, there was not a significant increase in performance. This could suggest that there might be group differences that are unrelated to the amount of video game time gamers versus non-gamers have had in their lifetime, and these group differences can be due to the selection process that took place when looking for participants in the study. Second Study The second study that this paper will look at was done in an article titled Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults by Anguera et al. (2013). In this article, the focus is on how a custom-designed video game improves cognition in the aging brain. In the first experiment, the study evaluated multitasking performance across the adult lifespan. Results showed that multitasking performance decreased significantly across the adult lifespan (Anguera et al., 2013). In the second experiment, the study evaluated whether older adults improved

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multitasking performance by training on a game called NeuroRacer. NeuroRacer is a driving game where attention is focused on different tasks such as driving and signs. Three tests groups were used for the experiment, one of which was the multitasking group, a second was a single tasking group, and a third was a no-contact control group where no training was done (Anguera et al., 2013). Focuses on the research were on working memory, visual working memory capacity, useful field of view, and basic motor and speed of processing (Anguera et al., 2013). All participants were recruited through online and newspaper advertisements (Anguera et al., 2013). Their performance was measured based on their run through the map that they drive through in the game. Measurements were done on sign performance and on driving performance, separately as individual tasks as well as combined into one multi-tasking task. They also took pre- and post-training evaluations involving cognitive tasks that would measure whether or not there was an increase in cognitive performance. The results of the tests showed that across age groups and across tasks there was an increase with cognition that correlated with NeuroRacer gameplay sessions. These results are more involved with further research that could be done in the area of video games and cognition. If there was a significant increase in cognition such as visual spatial working memory tasks when playing a racing game that involved less extreme measures of visual spatial abilities, the implications that these results could have on first person shooter games are vast. These tasks involved multi-tasking, and when it comes to first person shooter games, multi-tasking is one of the main keys to completing a mission. With all of this practice with multi-tasking, there could be a great improvement with updating working memory as people age. One obvious problem with this idea is that the two types of video games are significantly

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different in type, and one cannot use analogy to compare two different types of gameplay. This is why more research needs to be done to explore the possibilities. Third Study The third study that this paper will look at was done in an article titled Enhancing Cognition with Video Games: A Multiple Game Training Study by Oei & Patterson (2013). In this article, the focus is looking at what cognitive demands are associated with the specific types of games people play. There is a comparison done on action versus non-action type games. Five groups of non-gamer participants were instructed to play games such as action, spatial memory, match-3, hidden-object, and an agent-based life simulation (Oei & Patterson, 2013). The participants performed four behavioral tasks before and after the gameplay session to assess improvement of cognitive abilities. It is once again noted in this article that first person shooter games have a demand on unpredictability, intense speed, attending to multiple objects simultaneously, task switching, working memory and superior spatial skills (Oei & Patterson, 2013). For the study done in this article, participants were found on an online portal that targeted undergraduates at Nanyang Technological University (Oei & Patterson, 2013). All participants were non-gamers based on self-report. Training games that were used for the study included Hidden ExpeditionEverest, a hidden-object game, Memory matrix 1.0, a memory game, Bejewelled 2, a match-3 game, Modern Combat: Sandstorm, an action game, and The sims 3, an agent-based life simulation game (Oei & Patterson, 2013). Once again, for the purposes of this paper, the major focus will be on Modern Combat: Sandstorm a first person shooter game. The participants first had to complete cognitive tasks in a randomized order so that there was a base line for cognitive ability. Once the tasks were completed, the participants entered the gameplay phase of the study, and once that phase was completed, they once again did the cognitive tasks in the same order that

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they were originally done. The results showed that action video games increased accuracy of switching attention between stimuli (Oei & Patterson, 2013). Results also showed that there was a significant improvement of ability to filter out task-irrelevant stimuli. It is suggested from this result that video game players have enhanced control over filtering out distractors (Oei & Patterson, 2013). Working memory is important in action games, especially when it comes to switching and strategic planning. Players switch between tasks like engaging sudden onset enemies while accomplishing several mini-objectives within the game, which in turn require holding the objectives in working memory (Oei & Patterson, 2013). The results from this study show that action video games increase what the main topic of this paper is visual spatial working memory. The study provides evidence that there was an increase in ability to maintain visual stimuli placement on a map. One issue that comes with this study is the fact that it was a take home assignment. Participants werent required to play in their lab, and they could play on any device of any size. With that lack of control comes a variety of uncontrolled circumstances that could affect the ability to learn from performance. Fourth Study The fourth study that this paper will look at was done in an article titled Action video gaming and cognitive control: playing first person shooter games is associated with improvement in working memory but not action inhibition by Colzato, van den Wikdenbery, Zmigrod, & Hommel (2013). In this article, the focus is on how first person shooter games improve the accuracy in the monitoring and updating of working memory. For the study, they used participants who were video game players and non-video game players. The level of experience with video games was classified using a questionnaire. These participants were individuals who volunteered to participate in behavioral studies (Colzato et al., 2013). The individuals who were

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video game players were only video game players for first person shooter video games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life 2, Battlefield, and Grand Theft Auto IV. The participants were first required to participate in a series of tasks that tested for control and working memory monitoring. Results for these tests showed that video game players responded significantly faster and more accurately than non video game players when it came to completing the tasks (Colzato et al., 2013). There are beneficial effects associated with video gaming on cognitive flexibility and cognitive skills and abilities, such as needed for visual search (Colzato et al., 2013). This study is of most relevance in support of the thesis of this paper. It directly evaluates how first person shooter video game players perform versus non-gamers in tasks that directly involve working memory. One important issue about this study is that there wasnt a specific experiment done on individuals to test for working memory before and after playing video games, so the abilities of gamers versus non-gamer could be due to any circumstances. The research does not take into account individual differences, mainly because it is very difficult to look at every individual difference. This issue could get in the way of really proving if it is actually the video games that make for better working memory, or if it is some other set of circumstances. Conclusion The video game industry has been rapidly growing over the years, and with this growth comes and interest in how the video games currently on the market affect those individuals who play the different games. Game developers are constantly coming up with new techniques and concepts to enhance the gaming experience so that those video games become the new best seller. A current issue concerning a lot of people is the idea that violence is become very

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prominent in the video games of today. These video games sit in the hot seat and face a lot of scrutiny and blame for different social issues. Current research is attempting to look at the cognitive effects that playing video games has on an individual. Differences between gamers and non-gamers have been studied in-depth, and in this paper there are four different journal articles that attempt to explore the effects of video games on individuals. Specifically, these articles were chosen to support the thesis that playing first person shooter video games improves visual-spatial working memory. Visual-spatial working memory involves holding images in short-term memory while completing complex tasks. The first study looks at different statistics that were taken through gameplay of a first person shooter video game, and the results showed that there was a vast improvement of the statistics across the board. Statistics such as killing enemies and taking hits from enemies are directly involved with the performance of working memory. If the individual is more capable of holding spatial information into mind while performing different tasks, then there will be a better performance of how they complete the main objectives in the game. The improvement of visualspatial working memory leads to the improvement of a better gamer. The second study looks at how playing a multi-tasking game can improve working memory in aging individuals. The results showed that multi-tasking was improved with practice using a simple racing game. These results can apply to actions games, because the multi-tasking requires more skill, and with vast improvement in these skills comes vast improvement in working memory skills. The article looks at how cognitive psychology can take future research into a positive direction in improving aging memory.

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The third study focuses on the importance of working memory when tasking comes down to targeting enemies while being required to perform tasks that complete objectives in the game. There is a direct application of visual-spatial working memory to play levels in a first person shooter video game such as maintaining visual recognition of the stimuli on screen while completing a set of objectives as mentioned earlier. With improvement of these types of game and tasks comes and improvement of the memory that is being exercised. The fourth study is a very basic focus on how working memory compares between gamers and non-gamers. The results showed that there is indeed a difference between the two, but the idea needs to be kept mind that individual differences could account for how gamers and nongamers compare. With no real study of tasking before and after video game practice, the differences could account to self-selection. There is a lot of research being done in the areas of first person shooter video games. Future research could be done in other types of games. With the combined knowledge, there could be specific games developed to help people who are lacking in working memory to improve themselves. Individuals who have a declining memory could slow down the decline and improve their memory by playing different types of games, and future research could create and perfect certain types of rehabilitation video games that could improve different aspects of working memory.

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References Anguera, J. A., Boccanfuso1, J., Rintoul1, J. L., Al-Hashimi1, O., Faraji1, F., Janowich1, J., Kong1, E., Larraburo1, Y., Rolle1, C., Johnston1, E., & Gazzaley, A. (2013). Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults. Nature, 501, 97-101. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12486 Boot, W. R., Kramer, A. F., Simons, D. J., Fabiani, M., & Gratton, G. (2008). The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control. Acta Psychologica, 129, 387-398. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2008.09.005 Colzato, L. S., van den Wikdenbery, W. P. M., Zmigrod, S., & Hommel, B. (2013). Action video gaming and cognitive control: playing first person shooter games is associated with improvement in working memory but not action inhibition. Psychological Research, 77, 234-239. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-012-0415-2 Oei, A. C., & Patterson, M. D. (2013). Enhancing Cognition with Video Games: A Multiple Game Training Study. PLoS ONE, 8, e58546. Retrieved from doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058546