Study Examines Attention Effects of Video Games

Frequently, video games are cited as major factors in contributing to the prevalence of attention deficit disorder, or ADD, among modern adolescents. Issues in behavior and attention span, both within an educational and a family setting, are often linked to the abundance of video games that today’s young people increasingly play, and such links have met with skepticism and support alike throughout the mental health communities. While the suggestion that a single activity or outside product such as a video game could be responsible for the manifestation of a complex mental health issue is thought by some to be dubious, others suggest that the frequency with which young people play video games may render the responsibility possible.

Adding its weight to the debate, a recent study performed at Iowa State University has examined the effects of frequent video game use on two types of attention-related behavior, termed as “gearing up” and “just in time.” The former type of attention is described as being used while a video game player anticipates a certain action, while the latter can be associated with reaction speed to unexpected stimuli. The study found that video game players identified as spending a lot of time in front of the screen were slower with “gearing up” tasks than they were with “just in time” tasks as created within the laboratory, results that point to a decline in the natural ability to hold attention while waiting for a planned event.

The study does not seek to conclude whether video games have an adverse effect on attention and behavior altogether, but the evidence presented suggests that prolonged exposure to video games may diminish at least one aspect of attention. The researchers note that further study is required to explore additional
behavioral correlations.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Steyn

    Steyn

    October 27th, 2009 at 10:28 AM

    I believe playing video games actually increases our reaction levels and reflexes. You see, playing a video game involves a lot of reaction and quick reflexes, and this actually makes a person faster, in my opinion.

  • Nelson Tommy

    Nelson Tommy

    October 27th, 2009 at 4:16 PM

    Well, I think its not good to let the virtual world shape your real-world issues like attention levels and attention spans. Entertainment is good, but immersion isn’t.

  • GARY

    GARY

    October 27th, 2009 at 4:27 PM

    I completely agree that video games have become a bane rather than the light entertainment they meant to be. As realism in them increases, the involvement of the gamer also increases and this is not good news.

    As long as you control the machine, it is fine. But once you are craving for the machine and are yourself under the machine’s control, all hell breaks loose.

  • ASmom

    ASmom

    October 27th, 2009 at 8:18 PM

    I feel that gaming was another route to obsession for my Aspergers Syndrome son. On reflection though, it’s been an area of his life where he found he could fit in and be accepted by his peers almost as a guru. His obsessiveness about attention to detail gained him a vast knowledge of every tiny aspect of a game. For the first time in his life he knew what it felt like to be looked up to by his peers and for that, I am grateful.

  • CraigH.

    CraigH.

    October 27th, 2009 at 8:44 PM

    On gaming, I’ve found the opposite. The whole game absorbs me completely. I don’t hear a thing and my attention is unwavering. Any real gamer is the same. Reaction time is faster because it needs to be. Games are designed to be more reactive than gearing up. That’s what creates the excitement. When you can see everything coming a mile away, it’s boring.
    Gearing up as they call it is boring and that’s why their attention wasn’t held.

  • Sylvia

    Sylvia

    October 27th, 2009 at 9:20 PM

    All hell does break loose Gary! I banned my grandchildren from playing video games when I babysit. They turn into glassy eyed monsters. If they played as a team, they would be screaming over whose fault it was they weren’t winning. If they played each other, it turned into a brawl when there was a winner and a loser. I don’t put up with such nonsense.

  • tom

    tom

    October 28th, 2009 at 1:48 AM

    Video games are not only a distraction in a way that they reduce attention span but can also turn into an addiction, causing a lack of attention in other activities.

  • HILLARY

    HILLARY

    October 28th, 2009 at 2:23 AM

    I do not allow my 10 year old pair of twins to game more for more than 2 hours a week as they had got addicted to gaming last year and had unusual behavior.

  • Judy

    Judy

    October 28th, 2009 at 3:10 AM

    I’ve always found this difficult to understand. If video games do diminish one aspect of attention how does it help keep the gamer’s concentration. It should get confusing like spinning yourself around in circles shouldnt it?

  • Ivana

    Ivana

    October 28th, 2009 at 3:21 AM

    I have teenagers and I can def say that their mood for the day or perhaps the week is set by winning their games. Moods, instructions, duties and other forms of entertainment even relationships come only after the madness ends.

  • Meg

    Meg

    October 28th, 2009 at 5:40 AM

    This is so interesting, especially given that as the popularity and availability of video games has increased, so too have the number of prescriptions written for ADD and ADHD drugs. Looks like there could definitely be a correlation there to me.

  • george

    george

    October 28th, 2009 at 10:46 AM

    Video games’ addiction is a very unfortunate thing to happen. I suffered from its addiction three years ago. I an twenty now and am still on my path to recovery.

    I was just seventeen then and my condition was so bad that I would steal money from home to go to gaming parlours as my parents would not let me game at home… I went through counselling and after a lot of effort, I’m slowly moving towards normalcy again.

  • JONES

    JONES

    October 28th, 2009 at 6:20 PM

    I do game, but oly when I feel that there is nothing else to entertain me, and this happens around once a week on an average. And whenever I do game, I make sure I do not game for more than an hour… this is because I have seen a lot of youngsters getting addicted to gaming in my high-school years, and I do not want to suffer a similar fate.

  • Rose Hauritz

    Rose Hauritz

    October 29th, 2009 at 2:38 AM

    A student body called quit-smoking was created bout three years ago in my school, and the responsibility of this body is to spread awareness on the ill-effects of smoking, thereby discouraging it as well as helping those who are trying to quit.

    The results have been very encouraging and I think every school can constitue a similar body or do something similar to put an end to this menace.

  • Paul Berth

    Paul Berth

    October 29th, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    It also depends on the kind of video games that are played… there are a lot of edutainment games that are very beneficial.

  • Hollis

    Hollis

    October 29th, 2009 at 4:39 PM

    OOOhhh I see that this topic really has struck a chord with many people. I for one think that video games suck and let me tell you why. There is no redeeming factor in these games that pull teens away from their families for hours at a time, expose them to large amounts of violence, and expose them to munrealistic expectations of what a fantasy world can be. It is all so stupid. I am all for technology but this is one area where it has taken over too many lives and now look at the price that some are paying for that. Brain function is being affected here! Doesn’t that seem like a problem to more people than just me? I for one wish that they would just go away. Would save some a lot of headaches and I know a lot of money too.

  • freida

    freida

    October 30th, 2009 at 3:56 AM

    Who can stop the fire?? If ur kid doesnt play at home with restricted hours its going to be gone down the street playing at some other kids place.

  • Gary

    Gary

    October 30th, 2009 at 11:19 AM

    It is high time we shift our kids’ focus to outdoor games again… it is a better thing to do and is infact good for health, as against video games being harmful… outdoor games also help in improving one’s personality and traits.

  • tennen

    tennen

    October 30th, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    I have gone through the entire article and all the comments here, and I really think Gary’s suggestion, that of encouraging outdoor games, is the best way forward to eradicate the ill-effects of video games and encouraging a healthy environment for today’s kids.

  • dj marreld

    dj marreld

    November 7th, 2009 at 11:51 PM

    Hello, I am the mother of a 27 year old male who is considered a professional gamer by his peers and who was diagnosed with ADD as a young boy. It is a serious matter to be found in bondage to an addiction that distorts reality with fantasy. Most vulnerable are those who are disadvantaged, socially isolated and insecure. Not aggressive by nature and with a distain for violence, he became the hero who overcame evil with good. He now extends his asscociation to those who engage in ‘furry’ events whose persona and alter ego is that of the character they identify with and esteem. I am heartbroken to see him and others in the grip of this delusion and mind consuming activity. To those who have not fallen prey to this addiction, I say discipline yourselves continually. To those who are victims of this error and to their families- wake up. Sadly, I realized to late the grip this disease has on my son. Therefore I pray. Therapy does not seem to help, though therapy is good- Truth is best. The Word of God says that one who yields to the will of another is slave to that which he obeys and is taken captive by its will. (Romans 6:16) But the Word of God is life to those that hear it and healing and health to our mind and body.(Proverbs 4:22) For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind ( 2 timothy 1:7) And God is mighty to the pulling down of strongholds-(2 Corinthians 10:4) and this is a stronghold. God sent His son Jesus to bear these things in His body and through our faith in his Truth and we can pray for our loved ones and trust God to heal them and by the power of His Holy Spirit and to deliver them to a sound mind. This is my Hope for my son and anyone else enslaved to this unwholesome influence and destroyer of soul. Thank you and God bless.

  • asd

    asd

    July 8th, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    i lost 2 years of my life cos of CS. i was able to recover using silly spelling games for kids

  • MysteryBones

    MysteryBones

    June 8th, 2018 at 8:36 AM

    Wow, I’m current doing some research for a a report I’m writing on video game and all these comments from 2009 are real throwback. So glad people have become more receptive and understanding about the hobby in recent years

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