The Effects of Video Game Exposure on Cognitive Control
Students: Lexi Lease, Mickey Rice, and Malia Walker
Faculty Mentor: Kira Bailey (OWU Department of Psychology, OWU Neuroscience Program)
With the widespread use of video games it is important to understand the effects that they might have on our abilities to regulate, coordinate, and sequence thoughts and actions, skills collectively known as cognitive control. This study examines how brief video game exposure affects cognitive control by measuring electrical activity from the brain using an electroencephalogram (EEG). Participants in this study played 20 minutes of either a first-person shooter video game or a strategy video game, and then completed tasks that assess cognitive control while temporary changes of their brain’s electrical activity were recorded from the scalp. Based on past research, we hypothesized that brief exposure to a strategy video game will improve cognitive control as indexed by accuracy, response time, and differences in recorded brain activity; first-person shooter video games, in contrast, may have no effect or may actually be detrimental to the use of cognitive control.
This study examines the effects of brief video game exposure on cognitive control using event-related potentials (ERPs). Cognitive control is examined under the context of the Dual Mechanisms of Control theory, which proposes that cognitive control is made of two types of control, reactive and proactive. Individuals alternate between these two modes based on current task demands (Braver, 2012). Based on previous research (West & Bailey, 2012), the frontal slow wave and conflict SP ERP components index proactive and reactive control, respectively. Participants played 20 minutes of either a first-person shooter or strategy video game and then completed the counting Stroop and Flanker tasks while ERPs were recorded. Past research has shown that proactive control is negatively correlated with higher levels of video game experience, but reactive control shows little difference (Bailey, West & Anderson, 2010). We hypothesize that brief exposure to a strategy video game will improve the use of proactive cognitive control as indexed by accuracy, response time, and amplitude of the frontal slow wave. Participants exposed to the strategy game will show higher accuracy in blocks with more incongruent/incompatible trials and display more prominent slow wave activity, indicating a greater use of proactive control. First-person shooter video games, in contrast, may have no effect or may be detrimental to the use of proactive control.