This is Your Brain On Awesome Thoughts on the world from a student of the mind

1Nov/10

What can videogames teach us about people?

My parents always told me that playing videogames was a waste of time, that we should all be spending our days doing more productive things than carrying out pointless tasks in virtual worlds.

This may be true, but if Tom Chatfield is right, videogames also give us an incredible opportunity to tap into the collective human psyche and understand what motivates us to learn, do, and interact with the world (both virtual and real).

You don't have to look further than the name "videogame" to see what is so amazing about these programs - they're games, they're totally pointless with completely intangible systems of accomplishment and reward...and yet the most popular games have millions of people clamoring to have the opportunity to succeed in them.  So what is it that videogames have gotten so right?  What is it about them that creates this massive social desire to keep scoring points, unlocking accomplishments, and earning items?  Check out the video above to find out.

This is a field I find particularly interested for its applicability to cognitive science and neuroscience, two fields that have extensive bodies of literature covering reward and decision making.  It seems like the more you look at the world, the more you realize that you can find inspiration for future studies from nearly everywhere, and in this case I believe that we've got quite a lot to learn by studying these seemingly pointless activities.

via TED.com

29Jul/10

Those Inception guys were gamers!

Pardon me if it sounds like I'm excited at the prospect that playing videogames can give me the ability to control dreams, but a new study suggests that it may be true.

Researchers at Grant MacEwan University in Canada recently looked at the existence of lucid dreaming, a dreamstate in which you can control the content of your psychological slumberworld, in young people that identified at gamers.

They found that, compared with individuals who didn't "game," there was a significantly higher report of lucid dreaming in those who did play videogames.

In addition, it seems that the content of these dreams differed between individuals.  Gamers reported a consistent, smooth transition between first and third person dreams (a perspective that is common in videogames), as well as increased control over their emotional approach to the game.

Perhaps most importantly, gamers seemed to approach dreams with a greater sense of challenge rather than despair - rather than becoming frightened with nightmares, gamers tended to take a more proactive approach to dealing with their terrifying alternate worlds.  Such an effect might have implications for prescribing "videogame therapy" for those with frequent nightmares or those with PTSD.

Either way, this is just another piece of evidence that videogames might do a bit more than just turn your brain to mush.  Take that, mom!

via LiveScience