Video Games May Increase Kids’ Intelligence
Researchers have found evidence that video games may increase players’ intelligence, particularly in kids.
Published as part of the ABCD Study, the research showed that after two years “gaming positively impacted intelligence.” The study examined 9,855 children aged 10 to 12 and measured the impact of three different types of screen time on intelligence: watching tv or online videos, socializing via social media, text, or video chat, and gaming. The kids were given five intelligence tests: “two on reading comprehension and vocabulary, one on attention and executive function (which includes working memory, flexible thinking and self-control), one assessing visual-spatial processing (such as rotating objects in your mind), and one on learning ability over multiple trials.”
Gaming and watching tv were correlated with intelligence gains, while socializing was not. The study found the gains were the same for both boys and girls. However, girls with higher intelligence were more likely to play video games, while the same connection was not made in boys.
The authors noted that the findings were consistent with earlier studies that found connections between playing action video games and improvements in visual processing skills, visual attention, and working memory capacity. Another study found video game players had better executive functioning and other relevant cognitive measures than non-players.
Other research has found connections between video games and improved attention control, visual memory accuracy, problem solving, and spatial intelligence, among other skills.
“I believe the beneficial effects we found from video gaming are for intelligence more broadly – not only restricted to visual-spatial skills or mental speed. That conclusion makes sense to me. Lots of children play games that are story-driven or about solving puzzles and self-control,” explained one of the study’s authors, Bruno Sauce, Assistant Professor of Biological Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Sauce also noted his own use of video games to learn English while a child in Brazil, “When you see a cool-looking game, you can do miracles to understand what the characters are saying.”
The correlation between video games and intelligence gains may be in part due to the wide variety of games now available to kids. No longer are kids restricted to getting a frog across the road, where the only gains may have been hand-eye coordination. Now kids have more complicated story-based, puzzle, and turn-based games in which creativity, memory, cooperation, planning ahead, and critical thinking skills are important.
1. Do you agree that video games could increase players’ intelligence? Why or why not?
2. Beyond hand-eye coordination, can you connect particular video games to skills such as critical thinking or memory? Explain your answer(s). What games have no connection to skills or intelligence, in your opinion? Explain your answer(s).
3. What negative impacts can video games have, especially on kids? Explain your answer(s).
4. Analyze another study on video games and intelligence, and summarize your findings.
1. Bruno Sauce, Magnus Liebherr, Nicholas Judd, and Torkel Klingberg, “The Impact of Digital Media on Children’s Intelligence While Controlling for Genetic Differences in Cognition and Socioeconomic Background,” nature.com, May 11, 2022
2. Torkel Klingberg and Bruno Sauce, “Video Games: Our Study Suggests They Boost Intelligence in Children,” theconversation.com, May 12, 2022
3. Kabir L., “Video Games Make You Smarter: Backed up by Research,” healthygamer.gg (accessed May 23, 2022)
4. Matthew Rozsa, “Unlike Social Media, Video Games May Actually Be Raising Kids’ IQs, Study Finds,” slate.com, May 20, 2022