A couple weeks ago, a CogDaily commenter wondered if some of the science achievement differences between men and women might be related to the fact that boys play more video games than girls:
There are many more boys playing video games than girls. Could the mental sweat caused by video games strengthen the areas of the brain more involved in mathematics?
Good question, Lauren. As it turns out, a recent study discussed by Fernette and Brock Eide suggests you might be on to something. We’ve reported here that the video game Medal of Honor can increase performance on several different vision tasks. As we noted in our series two weeks ago, spatial visual ability seems to account for much of the apparent difference between males and females’ scores in high-stakes math and science tests. That’s why this new study’s results are quite important. From the Yahoo writeup of the study:
There was little change among those who played Ballance [a less visually demanding game], but the Medal of Honor players showed marked improvement from testing before and after playing the game. On average, female participants improved more than their male counterparts, significantly narrowing the gender gap. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that even five months down the road, the Medal of Honor players retained much of the enhanced spatial skills they had developed.
These results showing improvements in “spatial reasoning” were found after just 10 hours of game-play. Here’s a figure from the Eides showing some of the results:
The action-game players improved more than the non-action players, and women improved more than men. The gender gap still wasn’t completely closed, and looks to me to have widened again after the five-month layoff. Still, it’s encouraging to see such a dramatic demonstration that these “innate” abilities can indeed be learned.