Shooting Your Accuracy in the Foot: The Effect of Action Video Games on Cognitive Control

Students: Mickey Rice, Lexi Lease, and MaLia Walker
Mentor: Kira Bailey (OWU Department of Psychology)

Previous research on long-term exposure to action (e.g., first-person shooter) video games has demonstrated a negative association between exposure and cognitive control (Bailey, West, & Anderson, 2010). To further explore the relationship between gaming and cognitive control, the current study examined the effects of brief video game exposure (20 minutes) on cognitive control using event-related potentials (ERPs). Cognitive control was assessed by ERP components associated with the ability to detect (N2) and resolve (SP) conflict when the conflict was either expected or unexpected. After playing either an action or strategy video game, participants completed a Stroop task while ERPs were recorded. In this Stroop task, participants identified the number of digits on the screen, not the identify of the digits. The number and identity of the digits could match (congruent trials, low conflict) or not (incongruent trials, high conflict). The proportion of congruent to incongruent trials was manipulated across blocks to create conditions where conflict was expected or unexpected. The interference effect (incongruent minus congruent trials) was slightly larger for the action group than strategy group, possibly indicating that the former detected more conflict than the latter. Similarly, the interference effect in the conflict SP was larger in participants exposed to the action game compared to the strategy game, particularly in the unexpected conflict condition. The behavioral data revealed lower accuracy for participants exposed to the action game for incongruent trials in the unexpected conflict condition. Taken together, these results suggest greater difficulty in resolving conflict when it was unexpected after playing an action video game. Overall, the results of this study are consistent with previous work demonstrating that action video game exposure impacts cognitive control, but expand on past research by showing that exposure to action games may specifically decrease the ability to handle conflict when it is unexpected.

More information about this project in Digital Commons @ OWU

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Merrick Hall