Do Video Games Make You Smarter?

We've all been told that playing video games can distract you from school but is this true? Do video games affect academic performance?

Here's some news that middle schoolers can use. According to new research out of Australia, playing video games may make you smarter. Julian Huguet has the details in today's DNews dispatch.

The study, conducted by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, found some interesting correlations between video game habits and academic performance. First, the research team crunched data from PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, an international survey that tests the math, reading, and science skills of 15-year-old students.

Then they slotted the numbers against how much time a given student spends playing video games, plus other factors like their parents' education level and occupation.

The results were surprising: The study found that students who played games almost every day performed substantially better in all categories, scoring 15 points above average in math and reading, and 17 points above average in science.

But before you eight-graders reach for those controllers, keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation. There are many possible reasons for the match, according to study's authors. For instance, there's the nerd hypothesis: It could be that brainier kids are simply more likely to play video games in the first place. The gaming itself is irrelevant.

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There's also this pesky additional detail: According to the study, kids that played games every single day -- as opposed to most days -- performed worse on the academic tests.

The Australian study is the latest in a loooong line of research that has attempted to suss out the relationship between video games and academic performance. Results are all over the map. An oft-cited U.S. study from 2000 found a slight negative correlation between GPA and time spent playing video games.

Then again, another recent study -- published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology -- seems to back up the Australian research. It found that children age 6 to 11 who play video games are more likely to do well in school. In 2009, PLoS One published a review of PISA results that found playing games had no big impact one way or another.

In conclusion, there's not much to conclude. But the wildly varied results suggest that, at the very least, video games are not the unqualified scourge that alarmists have been warning about since the Atari 2600. Happy gaming.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

International Journal Of Communication: Internet Usage And Educational Outcomes Among 15-Year-Old Australian Students

Medical Daily: Young Children Who Play Video Games May Experience Improved Social Skills, Intelligence, And School Performance

National Library Of Medicine: Video Games And Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, And Behavior In The Laboratory And In Life