Stretching the limits of visual attention: the case of action video games

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci. 2011 Mar;2(2):222-230. doi: 10.1002/wcs.116. Epub 2010 Nov 17.


Visual attention is the set of mechanisms by which relevant visual information is selected while irrelevant information is suppressed, thus allowing the observer to function in a world made up of nearly infinite visual information. Recently, those who habitually play video games have been documented to outperform novices in a variety of visual attentional capabilities, including attention in space, in time, and to objects. Training studies have established similar improvements in groups of nongamers given experience playing these video games. Critically, not all video games seem to have such a beneficial effect on attention; it seems that fast-paced, embodied visuo-motor tasks that require divided attention (tasks commonly found in popular action games like Halo) have the greatest effect. At the core of these action video game-induced improvements appears to be a remarkable enhancement in the ability to efficiently deploy endogenous attention. The implications of such an enhancement are relevant to a variety of real-world applications, such as work force training, rehabilitation of clinical populations, and improvement of traditional educational approaches. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 222-230 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.116 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.