Tue. May 30th, 2023
Get rid of the headset: Gaming doesn't teach you how to multitask

These days, we should all be multitaskers: juggling email, IM, Twitter, the TV in the background, and more. This is despite a seemingly constant stream of evidence that as humans, we really aren’t great at doing more than one thing (and certainly more than two) at a time.

OK, for accuracy’s sake, it seems that about two and a half percent (paywall) of us can multitask effectively. Unfortunately, chances are you are not in that minority. A lot of multitasking research seems to look at trying to do something different while driving. This is perhaps unsurprising: You’re much more likely to kill someone while texting and driving than juggling multiple applications and windows at your desk (with the possible exception of armed drone pilots). Still, many of us choose to ignore the data and continue using our phones while controlling thousands of pounds of metal. Since this is the case, Sarah Donohue of Duke University and her colleagues wondered, “Are there specific groups that can multitask?” They set their sights on gamers.

Much previous research has shown that avid action game players generally have greater visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, better ability to track multiple moving objects, and possibly better overhead cognitive control compared to those of us who haven’t. the hours, weeks and months Counterattack/Demise/Duty. Donohue’s study, published online last week in the journal Attention, perception and psychophysicsintended to find out if action game enthusiasts could use those skills to multitask more effectively than the rest of us.

The experiment consisted of three components: a multi-object tracking test, an image search, and a racing game where participants were scored on their speed and the number of walls and obstacles hit. Each part was performed on its own (single task), and also while participants were asked trivia questions that they had to answer within five seconds (dual task). The participants were grouped into gamers and non-gamers. Gamers were defined as people who actively played FPS shooters for about three hours per week over the past six months, and at one point played at least five hours per week, while rating themselves as average or higher. So what did they find?

First, getting Trivial Pursuit rapid-fire questions significantly reduced one’s proficiency in all three tasks (with a few caveats). On the driving test, asking trivia questions resulted in an increase in the time it took to complete the course, although it also caused a decrease in driving errors. It also reduced the accuracy of tracking multiple objects and caused participants to find fewer objects when searching for images. In the end, when comparing gamers to non-gamers, nothing stood out. The gamers did not perform better or worse on the dual task tests.

The reduction in driving errors in the dual task driving test is somewhat surprising, and the authors note that it was unexpected. However, they point out that the test is “designed more to keep participants engaged in the dual task than to mimic a phone conversation.”

Attention, perception and psychophysics, 2012. DOI: 10.3758/s13414-012-0323-y (About DOIs).

By akfire1

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