DOOM’d to switch: superior cognitive flexibility in players of first person shooter games - Colzato (2010) - Article


Playing videogames can have a positive effect on cognitive skills and abilities. Previous research has already shown that players of videogames are better in visually tracking multiple moving objects and are better at visual search tasks. In the games the players need to think about what to do in complex situations, they need to act fast to moving visual objects and switch back and forth between different tasks.

In this study they examine if gaming is associated with a general and generalizable improvement of cognitive flexibility. If that is the case they should find that more experience with playing videogames is associated with better performance on a task that requires mental flexibility.


Switching between tasks requires the reconfiguration of the cognitive task set. This process often delays reaction time (or increases the task-switching costs). If playing videogames is associated with more flexibility, the players of videogames should have lower task-switching costs than those who don’t play videogames.


The results indicate that players of videogames have higher cognitive flexibility. They had smaller switching costs than those who don’t play videogames. There was no effect of age or IQ.


Switching costs consist of different components. The preparatory component reduces as the preparation interval increases. This component is often eliminated at long intervals. The residual component is resistant to preparation. These components result from the involuntary stimulus-triggered activation of the previous task set. Because the cue-target interval was quite long in this study, they assume that videogame experience is related to the residual component.

Videogame players are more efficient when it comes to controlling their episodic memory structures. This means they are better in selectively activating and updating task sets. This is in line with previous research. Earlier studies indicated that neurofeedback that enhances neural synchronization in the frontal cortex leads to a more selective retrieval from episodic memory. This includes the suppression of automatically retrieved, but interfering, episodic memory traces.

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