Women’s Spatial Acuity Improved By Videogame

In a study The Economist is calling “nurture strikes back,” a videogame—Medal of Honour: Pacific Assault, a first-person shooter—has helped improved a set of women’s ability to perform in spatial awareness tests, even months after the test was conducted.

As a control, other volunteers were asked to play a decidedly non-action-packed puzzle game, called “Ballance”, for a similar time. Both sets were then asked to do the odd-man-out test again.

Among the Ballancers, there was no change in the ability to pick out the unusual. Among those who had played “Medal of Honour”, both sexes improved their performances.

That is not surprising, given the different natures of the games. However, the improvement in the women was greater than the improvement in the men–so much so that there was no longer a significant difference between the two. Moreover, that absence of difference was long-lived. When the volunteers were tested again after five months, both the improvement and the lack of difference between the sexes remained.

Clearly this means that more women should be playing first person shooters with me. It is about Halo 3 season. Who wants to join my all-women team? (I, as the sole male, will stay on board as the control subject. It’s for science.)

Psychology and the sexes [Economist]

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6 Responses to Women’s Spatial Acuity Improved By Videogame

  1. Sarah says:

    Heh. My mechanics teacher freshman year advised me to “play Tetris — lots and lots of Tetris.” I’ll have to go back and tell him to switch to an FPS.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ummm, shouldn’t women be playing the upcoming Metriod game?

  3. Skwid says:

    I wonder if what this really indicates is that the often cited “advantage” men seem to hold on average in visuo-spatial activities is simple conditioning, rather than the sort of biological predisposition that is usually offered as explanation?

    Interesting study…

    • Joel Johnson says:

      Skwid: It’s just one study, but that’s certainly what it indicates. And that the women were testing at the same improved levels months later implies that there isn’t some biological bias they have learned to temporarily work around, but plain ol’ conditioning. (Or, perhaps, shampooing; washing that man back into their hair.)

  4. A New Challenger says:

    Competent women drivers?!? What has science done?!

    All misogyny aside, woohoo! “Games are good” studies are nice antidotes to the tired and tenuous DOOM=Columbine logic one is used to hearing from local news channels.

  5. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    I remember the 3D spatial perception sections of tests I took in junior high and high school. They showed you pictures of machine parts (I think they were auto parts) and asked what would happen if you rotated them, which one matched which other one, et cetera. I didn’t have problems with those sections, but I’ve always been on reasonably good terms with machinery.

    I also remember news stories about how some study supposedly showed that women aren’t as good at three-dimensional spatial perception and manipulation as men.

    So, one day I was looking through a dress pattern catalogue (yes, I am unspeakably ancient) that had patterns for the neo-Victorian Gunne Sax dresses so popular at that time. When I checked out the pattern information data, one item stood out: the number of separate pieces in that dress pattern was in the three digits.

    At that moment I had a flash of realization: “The hell are we not good at three-dimensional spatial perception; we’re just not good at auto parts.” I imagined revised tests in which you had to figure out the the order and direction of assembly of a dress front, neckline facing, and interfacing, or identify which of several shapes could be sewn up to produce a standard trouser leg or shirt sleeve.

    I can easily believe that playing a first-person shooter would increase women’s spatial acuity test scores. Also: I know that lifetime depth perception can be impaired if early amblyopia isn’t caught and corrected. It would be interesting to see whether the effect is more pronounced in players who start when they’re younger and still have changeable hardwiring.

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