Computer Games & Cognitive Stimulation
Computer games are fun, but can they make us smarter? Some say no and deplore the addiction to computer games that certain persons exhibit. Others maintain that while everything is better in moderation, computer games may contribute to improved cognitive ability. The suggestion does not come as a surprise given the complexity of today’s computer games.
Indeed, nowadays computer games are challenging and complex. The advent of new software allows the creation of spectacular scenery and characters, while the strategic thinking needed to succeed at many games results in significant mental stimulation. And in turn, mental stimulation leads to better cognitive ability. Lately, role playing multiplayer games have captured the hearts and minds of many people, ranging from children and teenagers to older adults and seniors. Such games teach strategy and involve a lot of interpersonal interaction, which is why they may be conducive to enhancing one’s intelligence.
Further, computer games are popular for their entertainment value, but as mentioned above, they may also contribute to cognition. Cognitive training programs target cognitive domains, such as memory, attentional control, linguistic verbal-auditory processing and working memory. Computer games may improve such cognitive domains as focused attention, sustained attention, memory recognition and mental flexibility.
However, personalized computerized cognitive training is even better than computer games at making one smarter. In one study, researchers compared two groups of elderly adults. One group received personalized computerized cognitive training, while the other played computer games. While computer games also contributed to cognitive stimulation and enhanced cognitive abilities, the personalized computerized training program resulted in better outcomes. Interestingly, individuals who had lower scores at baseline benefitted the most from cognitive training, perhaps because they had more room to improve, as stipulated by the authors.
Thus, frequent mental stimulation leads to better cognitive abilities. So, solving mathematical problems, reading and even playing computer games does indeed make you smarter. In fact, there is also truth in the view that talking to smart people makes you smarter as well, it is all about mental stimulation.