Spatial Characteristics/Resolution of Vision and Attention
Results from several different paradigms have established an enhanced ability to process spatial information across the visual field in VGPs. For instance, a number of labs have now compared VGP and NVGP performance on the Useful Field of View (UFOV) task, a modified visual search task initially developed by Ball, Beard, Roenker, Miller, & Griggs (1988). Briefly, this task requires participants to localize a very quickly flashed target shape from among a field of distractor shapes. VGPs have demonstrated far superior localization performance on this task as compared to NVGPs in both college-aged adults (Feng, Spence, & Pratt, 2007; Green & Bavelier, 2003, 2006a) and school-aged children (Dye & Bavelier, 2010). Furthermore, the same result has been repeatedly observed in NVGPs specifically brought to the lab and trained on action video games, thus establishing a causal link between video game playing and enhanced performance (Feng et al., 2007; Green & Bavelier, 2003, 2006a; Spence, Yu, Feng, & Marshman, 2009). Similar results have been also seen in the “swimmer task” developed by West and colleagues (West, Stevens, Pun, & Pratt, 2008), and the crowding paradigm (Green & Bavelier, 2007), which both require participants to localize targets from within a field of distracting objects. It is worth noting that in each of these cases, the stimuli did not in any way resemble the rich and complex environments of action video games (they instead used incredibly simple sets of lines and basic shapes). Performance was also tested well into the periphery of the field of vision (e.g., as far as 25° to 30°), which is beyond the typical field of view used while playing (Green & Bavelier, 2007). This type of transfer across both stimulus type and retinal location stands in stark contrast with the perceptual learning literature reviewed previously. Finally, the VGP advantage in spatial abilities is not limited to tasks that have employed displays with extremely limited presentation times. A clear VGP advantage has also been shown in visual search tasks that use reaction time as the primary dependent measure (i.e., the search display is present until the subject finds the target and presses the relevant key). More specifically, these studies have shown that VGPs require less time to process each item across the display (Castel, Pratt, & Drummond, 2005; Hubert-Wallander, Green, Sugarman, & Bavelier, 2011).
Differences in low-level spatial resolution in tasks that are not commonly thought to be limited by visual attention have also been considered (i.e., tasks in which targets appear at a known time and place in the absence of distractors and thus “attention” as it is typically conceived of would not be called upon). For instance, acuity was measured by assessing the smallest T that could be correctly identified as right side up or upside-down (Green & Bavelier, 2007). Similarly, contrast sensitivity was measured via a 2-interval forced choice (2IFC) task in which one interval contained a low-contrast Gabor patch—that is, a sinusoidal grating vignetted by a Gaussian envelope (Li, Polat, Makous, & Bavelier, 2009). In both cases VGPs demonstrated enhanced performance compared to NVGPs (although only in the latter case was there a significant effect of action video game training). Together this overall body of results demonstrates an enhancement in the spatial characteristics and resolution of visual and attentional processing that is due to playing action video games.