Video Games May Improve Reading Skills of Dyslexics
In a time when video games tend to get blamed for just about everything terrible under the sun, with everything from decreased attention spans to mass shootings being attributed to them, a new study has found that playing action video games can actually help children with dyslexia improve their reading comprehension.
The study, called “Action Video Games Make Dyslexic Children Read Better,” used two groups of children between the ages of 7 and 13, and had them both separate video games for nine 80-minute sessions. The first group played an action-based game,”Rayman Raving Rabbids,” while the second played a more “kid-friendly” game that didn’t feature as much action. After both groups had played for a cumulative 12 hours, both groups were tested on their reading skills. Surprisingly, the group that had played the action-based game drastically outperformed the control group by reading faster and with a greater degree of accuracy.
More notably, however, was the discovery that the children who played the action game for 12 hours saw a more substantial improvement in their reading ability than they would have from reading the average amount of reading each age group would perform over a whole year. The researchers theorized that this was due to video games causing the children to recognize and analyze large amounts of information in a short amount of time, which is an essential aspect of reading comprehension.
Lead author Dr Andrea Facoetti explained the reason why this occurs is due to the nature of attention and focus itself. According to Dr. Facoetti, attention should be imagined as a “spotlight” that can move around and adjust in size within a person’s visual field. If that spotlight is focused on one particular area, the amount of information a person extracts will be enhanced. Dr. Facoetti and his team believe that video games may essentially boost and enlarge this spotlight to absorb more information by affecting the area of the brain that controls motion perception and attention.
Given that these same skills are also in deficit for children suffering with dyslexia, the team also suggested that action-based video games could provide for a “new, fast, fun remediation of dyslexia.”
“Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment,” said Dr. Facoetti. “Dyslexic children learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly.”
However, Dr. Facoetti was quick to point out that while these findings could open new doors in our understanding of dyslexia and how we treat it from now, this should not give children carte blanche in playing violent video games for large quantities of time without their parent’s approval.
“These results are very important in order to understand the brain mechanisms underlying dyslexia,” he said, “but they don’t put us in a position to recommend playing video games without any control or supervision.”
Other studies in recent times have begun to question the conventional cliche that video games are inherently detrimental to the development of mental faculties in children. Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good For You, had previously put forth a similar claim by saying that video games actually improve the player’s IQ by forcing players to frequently make quick reactions and decisions in short periods of time.
Tags: counter intuitive