Progress of Videogaming on Cognitive Abilities

From the limited data that we gathered from our research it appears that screen exposure impacts certain individuals differently, making some more susceptible to reduced ability of inhibition and attention. The data, however, was not confined to one effect. It was found that some participants who played videogames on a regular basis were still able to successfully perform the tests measuring their attention and inhibition after completing the videogame control whereas some scored the same as they had when measured before the control, others improved, and other declined. Participants who were less accustomed to screen exposure also had the same results: some scored higher after the electronic control whereas others scored a lower or an equal amount.
Time was an important factor. It may be that the 10 minutes each subject was given to complete each control was not long enough. The amount of time each subject was allotted could also have contributed negatively to our results because in the real world the average college student isn’t exposed to only 10 minutes of screen time.
Practice effects also appear to be influencing results. Some subjects had already been exposed to the STROOP Color and Word test through school and the internet, I also noted that majority of subjects scored higher on the STROOP the second time it was given to them after each control because they were more familiar with what it entailed and what was expected of them to achieve a higher score. For example, one subject in particular vocalized when he received the STROOP for the first time that he couldn’t read the words quickly in fear of making a lot of careless mistakes, however, when given the test for the then second time after the control he was able to read more quickly because now he knew what the test entailed and was no longer worried about making errors. This possibly shows that those who obtained a higher score on this test did so because they were familiar with it not because one control affected their cognition negatively or positively.
This project has given me insight on how to work with people from a researcher standpoint. When working with human subjects patient and persistence is highly essential. From scoping, to contacting, to reminding, to participating each step requires the researcher to make the subjects feel important by knowing that they are contributing to data that can have a profound impact of the community at large.

Effects of Video Gaming on Impulsivity and Attention Abstract

The effects of impulsivity and attention on responses to external stimuli consisting of computerized video games and non-computerized handheld games will be investigated for the research project. The subjects will consist of fifty undergraduate students from the Pace University Westchester campus. The subjects will be given a brief questionnaire prior to the two trials to determine their scholastic and socioeconomic backgrounds in correlation to the amount of time they regularly spend playing video games. The subjects will be presented with 30 minutes total of both a computerized and non-computerized game during the study. The subject’s impulsivity and attentiveness will be measured using the Stroop Color and Word Test and the WAIS-IV: Digit Span sub test before they participate in either stimulus to determine their initial cognitive state. Subjects will be given the two tests again after each of the two variables as means of determining which one had a greater impact, if any at all, on a college student’s impulsivity and attentiveness. It is hypothesized that  the participants will have lower scores on the tests after completing the computerized game segment as opposed to the non-computerized game.

Immediate Effects of Video Gaming on Impulsivity and Attention (Progress)

At this stage in our experiment, we are awaiting the approval of Pace’s IRB so we can start testing on our student subjects. The IRB is an Institutional Review Board that is responsible for making sure that any research involving human subjects is humane and done within their legal rights.
Coming into this independent research opportunity, I naïvely expected for our experiment to be conducted quickly and go on without any glitches. An expectation that was quickly sneered when I realized just how much work goes into not only the actual experiment part of a research project, but the pre-research part of the research project. Before running subjects for our proposed idea, Professor Tamny-Young and I had to meticulously investigate other works of research similar to ours for more insight into our topic and also to make sure we weren’t conducting a parallel experiment. Another time-consuming prerequisite for our experiment was completing and submitting our IRB proposal, which included an abstract of our experiment, certified test results on human rights, a summary and report of what we planned to conduct and achieve from our research and many more. The last of the timely requirements before actually starting the experiment is patiently impatiently awaiting the Board’s approval so we can legally test on our subjects. We have gotten quick responses from the Board regarding our application and optimistically take this to be a sign that the screening process will not take much longer.
This waiting process has made me much more appreciative to have been selected for such an amazing and eye opening experience and given me a new found respect for researchers.

Data Methods and Analysis

In order to investigate whether there is a causal relationship in which computer video gaming results in increased impulsivity and inattention, our investigation will compare scores on tests of impulse control and attention before and after college age participants engage in computer gaming compared to a control condition. If these percent change scores on tests of attention and impulsivity are significantly weaker in the computer video game condition, it would suggest that something specific to the video game experience results in lowered impulse control and attention in the brains of these developing individuals.

 

More specifically, we are going to obtain data measuring impulsivity and attention both before and after conditions where participants will either be asked to play a computer game (i.e., Angry Birds) or a handheld ring toss water game (i.e., Tomy The Wonderful Waterfuls). To measure the effects of each game condition (i.e., computer game, non-computer game) on impulsivity and attention the Stroop Color and Word Test and the WAIS-IV: Digit Span subtest will be administered both before and after the games. The Stroop test requires participants to first read black printed words (e.g., “RED”), then identify colors (e.g., “XXXX”), and finally to identify the colors of colored text (e.g., “RED”). In order to successfully complete the latter task, one must not be impulsive. In order to read the color of the text and not the word itself, participants have to suppress the automatic, word reading response through volitional control. The WAIS-IV Digit Span subtest, requires individuals to repeat a series of digits forward, backward, and then to order the digits sequentially. This is a measure of attention and working memory. Participants will return a week later to complete the condition (i.e., computer video game or hand held water game) that they had not completed the week prior and take the impulsivity and attention measures again. At this second visit, the participant will also be given brief questionnaires to assess self-perceived attention problems (i.e. Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale Symptom Checklist) and self-perceived levels of impulsivity (i.e., Barrett Impulsiveness Scale). The participant will also be asked about the amount of time spent playing videogames or watching television on a daily basis (i.e., screen exposure), their age, gender, parent education level (a measure of SES), and scholastic standing. The study will require approximately 30 minutes for the first session and 40 minutes for the second session.

 

To analyze the data t-tests for matched groups will be used to examine the change in performances on our dependent measures (i.e., the Stroop Color Word Test and the Digit Span subtest) by the same subject under the two conditions (i.e., the computer video game condition and the hand held water game condition). Our hypothesis is that the scores after playing the computer video game will be lower than the scores obtained before the game, but unchanged following the non-computer game condition. Using the t test for the difference between means we will compare percent change scores on the Stroop Color Word Test when the subjects played the computer game and the non-computer game. The same t test statistic will be used to examine the difference between the percent change scores on the Digit Span subtest from each condition (i.e., computer game and non computer game). Correlational analyses will be used to determine if there are relationships between self-reported levels of impulsivity on the Barratt Impulsivity Scale and performance on the Stroop Color Word Test and between the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale Symptom Checklist and performance on the WAIS-IV Digit Span subtest. Bivariate correlations will be computed for percent change scores on tests of impulsivity and attention, screen exposure (i.e., time spent per day playing video games/watching television), self-reported impulsivity, self-reported problems with attention, gender, age, parent’s highest level of education (SES), and self-reported school standing.

Immediate Effects of Video Gaming on Impulsive Behavior and Attention in College Students

I am working with Professor Tara Tamny-Young, Ph.D., to investigate the immediate effects of video gaming on impulsive behavior and attention in college students.

The volume of technology in our everyday lives has increased enormously over the past two decades, and as a result, more and more of our days are spent looking at screens. For a long time now, we have been alerted about the negative effect of television exposure on young minds. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 1999 recommended that children under the age of two years should not have any television (screen) exposure. They found that those children exposed to television before the age of two are more likely to develop attention deficit- hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) by the time that they are seven years old. The AAP continues to stand behind this recommendation as is evident in their 2011 policy statement.

Most recently, our screen viewing has increased with the progression of computers into handheld computer devices, which grants us constant access to technology. While computers help to facilitate our productivity in tremendous ways, there are still concerns that the way in which we use computers may negatively affect the way we think (Carr, 2011). Today’s children spend excessive amounts of time texting, surfing the web and playing video games. Each of these pursuits requires short spans of attention that are rewarded by instant gratification (e.g., a returned text, additional points of information, points earned or the next challenging level). Gaming in particular has become of special interest due to its prevalent use in preschool years through young adulthood. Numerous anecdotal and media (Richtel, 2010) reports have suggested that children and young adults have experienced problems with impulse control and their ability to sustain their attention as a result of video game usage. Parents frequently report that even their older children will throw a tantrum and be enraged when told to stop playing the games. Teenagers have reported how difficult it is for them to disengage from these games as well and often report spending numerous (sometimes six or more) hours each day playing these games, which raises the question of whether computer gaming may have contributed to the national SAT Reading scores in 2012 being the lowest they have been in four decades.

A few correlational studies have already revealed a relationship between problems with cognitive function and video game playing (Sharif & Sargent, 2006; Chan & Rabinowitz, 2006; Dworak et. al., 2007; Swing et. al., 2010; Weiss et. al., 2011; Gentile et. al. 2012). For instance, one investigation reported that middle school students who played video games on weekdays for just one hour showed poorer school performance than those who played for an hour or less (Sharif & Sargent, 2006). These previous investigations have led to proposals that individuals with ADHD may be more enticed by video games, or that time spent playing video games takes away from time spent developing brain function. However, it remains unclear whether video gaming has a direct impact on cognitive function.

What we are researching is whether there is a causal relationship in which video gaming results in increased impulsivity and inattention. Our study will investigate this in college students through an experimental manipulation so we can begin to understand whether video gaming has a causal relationship on impulse control and attention rather than just a correlational one. If there are cognitive effects, then concerns are especially raised for children and young adults whose developing brains may be more vulnerable to the detrimental effects of gaming. Our investigation will compare the percent change in scores on tests of impulse control and attention before and after subjects engage in computer gaming compared to a control condition. If these percent change scores are significantly weaker in the video game condition, it would suggest that something specific to the video game experience results in lowered impulse control and attention in the brains of these developing individuals.

 

References

American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Communications. (1999) Media Education.

Pediatrics, 104: 341-343.

 

American Academy of Pediatrics, Brown, A. & the Council on Communications. (2011) Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. Pediatrics, 128: 1040-1045.

 

Carr, N. (2010) The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W.Norton.

 

Chan P.A. & Rabinowitz T. (2006). A cross-sectional analysis of video games and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in adolescents. Annals of General Psychiatry, Vol. 5, pp. 16-

 

Dworak, M., Schierl, T., Bruns, T., & Struder, H.K. (2007). Impact of singular excessive computer game and television exposure on sleep patterns and memory performance of school-aged children. Pediatrics, 978-985. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-0476

 

Gentile, D. A., Swing, E. L., Lim, C. G., & Khoo, A. (2012).  Video game playing, attention problems, and impulsiveness: Evidence of bi-directional causality.  Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1, 62-70.

 

Richtel, M. (2010, November 21). Growing up digital, wired for distraction. New York Times. Front Page.

 

Sharif I, Sargent JD. Association between television, movie, and video game exposure and  school performance. Pediatrics. 2010;118:e1061–e1070. doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-2854. [PubMed]

 

Swing, E. L., Gentile, D. A., Anderson, C. A., &Walsh, D. A. (2010). Television and video game exposure and the development of attention problems. Pediatrics, 126, 214 –221. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-1508

 

Weiss, M.D., Baer, S., Allan, B., Saran, K., & Schibuk, H. (2011). The screens culture: impact on ADHD. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 3(4), 327-334. doi: 10.1007/s12402-011-0065-z.