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      Playing an action video game reduces gender differences in spatial cognition.

      Psychological Science

      Adult, Attention, physiology, Cognition, Female, Humans, Male, Photic Stimulation, Play and Playthings, psychology, Practice (Psychology), Psychomotor Performance, Sex Factors, Space Perception, Students, Time Factors, Video Games

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          Abstract

          We demonstrate a previously unknown gender difference in the distribution of spatial attention, a basic capacity that supports higher-level spatial cognition. More remarkably, we found that playing an action video game can virtually eliminate this gender difference in spatial attention and simultaneously decrease the gender disparity in mental rotation ability, a higher-level process in spatial cognition. After only 10 hr of training with an action video game, subjects realized substantial gains in both spatial attention and mental rotation, with women benefiting more than men. Control subjects who played a non-action game showed no improvement. Given that superior spatial skills are important in the mathematical and engineering sciences, these findings have practical implications for attracting men and women to these fields.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Magnitude of sex differences in spatial abilities: a meta-analysis and consideration of critical variables.

          In recent years, the magnitude, consistency, and stability across time of cognitive sex differences have been questioned. The present study examined these issues in the context of spatial abilities. A meta-analysis of 286 effect sizes from a variety of spatial ability measures was conducted. Effect sizes were partitioned by the specific test used and by a number of variables related to the experimental procedure in order to achieve homogeneity. Results showed that sex differences are significant in several tests but that some intertest differences exist. Partial support was found for the notion that the magnitude of sex differences has decreased in recent years. Finally, it was found that the age of emergence of sex differences depends on the test used. Results are discussed with regard to their implications for the study of sex differences in spatial abilities.
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            Mental rotations, a group test of three-dimensional spatial visualization.

            A new paper-and-pencil test of spatial visualization was constructed from the figures used in the chronometric study of Shepard and Metzler (1971). In large samples, the new test displayed substantial internal consistency (Kuder-Richardson 20 = .88), a test-retest reliability (.83), and consistent sex differences over the entire range of ages investigated. Correlations with other measures indicated strong association with tests of spatial visualization and virtually no association with tests of verbal ability.
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              Action-video-game experience alters the spatial resolution of vision.

              Playing action video games enhances several different aspects of visual processing; however, the mechanisms underlying this improvement remain unclear. Here we show that playing action video games can alter fundamental characteristics of the visual system, such as the spatial resolution of visual processing across the visual field. To determine the spatial resolution of visual processing, we measured the smallest distance a distractor could be from a target without compromising target identification. This approach exploits the fact that visual processing is hindered as distractors are brought close to the target, a phenomenon known as crowding. Compared with nonplayers, action-video-game players could tolerate smaller target-distractor distances. Thus, the spatial resolution of visual processing is enhanced in this population. Critically, similar effects were observed in non-video-game players who were trained on an action video game; this result verifies a causative relationship between video-game play and augmented spatial resolution.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                17894600
                10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01990.x

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