Home' Teacher : February 2010 Contents 42 TEACHER JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010
of psychology and director of the cognitive
psychology program at Iowa State. 'So if
they're engaged in some activity that doesn't
really capture their attention -- like maybe
a classroom lecture, or studying in a quiet
space -- they're going to have difficulty main-
taining attention on their own. . . . As you can
imagine, this study could have implications
for classroom and work performance for
those people who play a lot of video games.'
Keep in mind, the researchers didn't actu-
ally measure video gamers at the extreme
high-volume end. 'There were people who
we were unable to recruit and have data for
who have higher rates than 43 hours per
week,' admits West, 'so this is probably on
the high end, but it's certainly not the high-
est. You get some undergrads self-reporting
that they're playing nine or 10 hours a day.'
Theproblemishow toget these veryhigh-
volume gamers into a sample, as Dan Loton
explained after he conducted research into
video gaming and addiction for his Bachelor
of Psychology with Honours at Victoria
University in 2007. As Loton put it in 'Video
games and addiction,' 'Those gamers who
are the most dependant are likely to decline
an online survey that takes away 15 minutes
of good gaming time.' That aside, Loton
says most studies investigating video game
addiction simply superimpose pathological
gambling models onto video gaming, and
cautions against ju mping to conclusions
that gaming risks addiction. 'We need to
be asking whether researchers are merely
measuring video game preoccupation, not
an actual addiction,' Loton says.
Dr Sneh Khemka, medical director for
Bupa international, cautiously accepts the
findings from Bailey, West and Anderson's
study. 'We often hear conflicting messages
about whether playing video games is good
or bad for our health,' Khemka says. '(This
study) does seem to suggest that people who
spend many hours a week playing video
games find it harder to focus on other tasks.'
The next research question, of course, is
exactly how much media multi-tasking is
too much? In terms of video gaming, says
Khemka, 'What the researchers haven't
done is give us an idea of how long you
would have to play video games for before
they start affecting your attention span.'
Bailey, West and Anderson accept that
more work needs to be done to find out
whether video gaming affects the attention
of those who play somewhere between a few
and 40 hours a week. It's a fair assu mption
that the EEG measurement of 70-hour-a-
week gamers would find that they struggle to
maintain their attention independently over
time,just like their 40-hour-a-week counter-
parts, but what's the effect on people who
play 10 or 20 hours a week? 'We don't know
if it's a graded effect or threshold effect -- like
maybe 10's okay, but 20's not,' says West.
'We don't have those kinds of data yet.'
Until they do, the message for media
multi-taskers young or old is to be wary of
the ever- expanding connectivity made pos-
sible by the new information and commu-
nication technology tools and games that,
as Sam Anderson put it in a New York
Magazine article, force us into 'a kind of
elective ADHD (attention deficit hyper-
Maybe it's time we and our students
switched something off. We might find that
we save more than battery life, that less is
more and that good health lies in modera-
Photo by Jorge Flores Díaz courtesy of
Anderson , S. (2009). In defence of dis-
traction. New York Magazine. Available
Retrieved 28 May 2009.
Bailey, K., West, R. & Anderson, C.A.
(2010). A negative association between
video game experience and proactive cogni-
tive control. Psychophysiology. 47(1): 1-9.
Loton , D. (2008). Video games and addic-
tion. Profession al Educ ator. 7(3): 3-5.
Ophir, E., Nass, C. & Wagner, A. (2009).
Cognitive control in media multi-taskers.
Proceedings of the Nation al Acade my of
Sciences. 106(37): 15,583-15,587.
Maybe it's time we and
our students switched
something off. We might
find that we save more
than battery life, that less
is more and that good
health lies in moderation.
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