The interest in the influence of videogame experience in our daily life is constantly growing. “First Person Shooter” (FPS) games require players to develop a flexible mindset to rapidly react and monitor fast moving visual and auditory stimuli, and to inhibit erroneous actions. This study investigated whether and to which degree experience with such videogames generalizes to other cognitive control tasks. Experienced video game players (VGPs) and individuals with little to no videogame experience (NVGPs) performed on a N-back task and a stop-signal paradigm that provide a relatively well-established diagnostic measure of the monitoring and updating of working memory (WM) and response inhibition (an index of behavioral impulsivity), respectively. VGPs were faster and more accurate in the monitoring and updating of WM than NVGPs, which were faster in reacting to go signals, but showed comparable stopping performance. Our findings support the idea that playing FPS games is associated with enhanced flexible updating of task-relevant information without affecting impulsivity.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Note that the staircase method that we used allowed separating SSRT from the general RT level, which ensures that the former cannot be explained on the basis of the latter.
Band, G. P. H., van der Molen, M. W., & Logan, G. D. (2003). Horse-race model simulations of the stop-signal procedure. Acta Psychologica, 112, 105–142.
Boot, W. R., Blakely, D. P., & Simons, D. J. (2011). Do action video games improve perception and cognition? Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 226. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00226.
Boot, W. R., Kramer, A. F., Simons, D. J., Fabiani, M., & Gratton, G. (2008). The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control. Acta Psychologica, 129(3), 387–398.
Castel, A. D., Pratt, J., & Drummond, E. (2005). The effects of action video game experience on the time course of inhibition of return and the efficiency of visual search. Acta Psychologica, 119, 217–230.
Clark, K., Fleck, M. S., & Mitroff, S. R. (2011). Enhanced change detection performance reveals improved strategy use in avid action video game players. Acta Psychologica, 136, 67–72.
Colzato, L. S., Hertsig, G., van den Wildenberg, W., & Hommel, B. (2010a). Estrogen modulates inhibitory control in healthy human females: Evidence from the stop-signal paradigm. Neuroscience, 167, 709–715.
Colzato, L. S., van den Wildenberg W.P.M., & Hommel, B. (2007). Impaired inhibitory control in recreational users of cocaine. PLoS ONE, 2, e1143. http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0001143 .
Colzato, L. S., Huizinga, M., & Hommel, B. (2009a). Recreational polydrug use of cocaine impairs cognitive flexibility but not working memory. Psychopharmacology, 207, 225–234.
Colzato, L. S., van den Wildenberg, W. P. M., van der Does, W. A. J., & Hommel, B. (2010b). Genetic markers of striatal dopamine predict individual differences in dysfunctional, but not functional impulsivity. Neuroscience, 170, 782–788.
Colzato, L. S., van den Wildenberg, W. P. M., van Wouwe, N. C., Pannebakker, M. M., & Hommel, B. (2009b). Dopamine and inhibitory action control: evidence from spontaneous eye blink rates. Experimental Brain Research, 196, 467–474.
Colzato, L. S., van Leeuwen, P. J. A., van den Wildenberg, W. P. M., & Hommel, B. (2010c). DOOM’d to switch: Superior cognitive flexibility in players of first person shooter games. Frontiers in Psychology, 1, 8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00008.
Cools, R. (2006). Dopaminergic modulation of cognitive function: implication for L-DOPA therapy in Parkinson’s disease. Neuroscience Biobehavioral Review, 30, 1–34.
Dye, M. W. G., Green, S. C., & Bavelier, D. (2009). Increasing speed of processing with action video games. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 321–326.
Feng, J., Spence, I., & Pratt, J. (2007). Playing an action video game reduces gender differences in spatial cognition. Psychological Science, 18, 850–855.
Ferguson, C. J. (2011). Video games and youth violence: a prospective analysis in adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 377–391.
Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 423, 534–537.
Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2006a). Enumeration versus multiple object tracking: the case of action video game players. Cognition, 101, 217–245.
Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2006b). Effect of action video games on the spatial distribution of visuospatial attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 1465–1468.
Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2007). Action-video-game experience alters the spatial resolution of attention. Psychological Science, 18, 88–94.
Kane, M. J., Conway, A. R. A., Miura, T. K., & Colflesh, G. J. H. (2007). Working memory, attention control, and the N-back task: A question of construct validity. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33, 615–622.
Karle, J. W., Watter, S., & Shedden, J. M. (2010). Task switching in video game players: Benefits of selective attention but not resistance to proactive interference. Acta Psychologica, 134(1), 70–78.
Levitt, H. J. (1971). Transformed up-down methods in psychoacoustics. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 49, 467–477.
Logan, G. D., & Cowan, W. B. (1984). On the ability to inhibit thought and action: A theory of an act of control. Psychological Review, 91, 295–327.
Logan, G. D., Schachar, R. J., & Tannock, R. (1997). Impulsivity and inhibitory control. Psychological Science, 8, 60–64.
Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Emerson, M. J., Witzki, A. H., Howerter, A., & Wager, T. D. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “Frontal Lobe” tasks: a latent variable analysis. Cognitive Psychology, 41, 49–100.
Raven, J. (1998). Manual for Raven’s progressive matrices and vocabulary scales. Oxford: Oxford Psychologists.
Spence, I., Yu, J. J. J., Feng, J., & Marshman, J. (2009). Women match men when learning a spatial skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35, 1097–1103.
van Colzato, L. S., Muiden, J., Band, G., & Hommel, B. (2011). Genetic modulation of training and transfer in older adults: BDNF Val66Met polymorphism is associated with wider useful field of view. Frontiers in Cognition,. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00199.
van den Wildenberg, W. P. M., & Christoffels, I. K. (2010). STOP TALKING! Inhibition of speech is affected by word frequency and dysfunctional impulsivity. Frontiers in Psychology, 1, 145. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00145.
We thank Pim Bakker, Iris Doorgeest, Miralda Fesselet, Yara Tiggelhoven, Paulien Brower, Leonie van Wijk and Liesbeth Crezee for their enthusiasm and invaluable assistance in recruiting the participants of this study. The research of LSC, WvdW, and BH is supported by NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research).
Conflict of interest
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
About this article
Cite this article
Colzato, L.S., van den Wildenberg, W.P.M., Zmigrod, S. et al. Action video gaming and cognitive control: playing first person shooter games is associated with improvement in working memory but not action inhibition. Psychological Research 77, 234–239 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-012-0415-2
- Video Game
- Fluid Intelligence
- Action Video Game
- Stop Trial
- Violent Video Game