Dr. Art Markman, a professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and an author of Brain Briefs, specializes in cognitive science. Publishing over 150 scholarly works, he explored the impact of video games on an individual, from playing games helping you learn a lesson to potentially increasing violent behaviors. As the video game industry grows in popularity, it is important to understand the games’ effects on our lives and try to maximize their potential benefits and minimize their detriments.
I was a cognitive science major as an undergrad. I had an interest both in computer science and intelligent systems. In the 1980s, though, when I was in college, computers were not powerful enough to develop good models of intelligent behavior, so I chose to study psychology and focus on people.
The AI in video games has improved a lot because of cognitive science.
There has also been significant interest over the past two decades on the influence of video games on behavior.
You have written several articles regarding the topic of games, whether you put them in good light or bad light. With that being said, what got you into researching video games and their impact. Why do you think it’s important to do so?
Many people spend a lot of time playing video games, and so it is valuable to understand the effect that they have on the people who play them. As with any activity, there are good and bad influences of playing games on the gamers who play them. I began reading the literature on the video games about 10 years ago, because it is an opportunity to see how long-term exposure to an activity affects behavior.
With the inevitable growing video game industry, do you predict that many researchers will pursue research on games? Whether to disparage them or find favors in such activities?
This is a topic that will continue to be explored, because a growing number of people are playing games. Most researchers are just interested in finding out the impact of games on people without an explicit intention to either disparage them or aggrandize them.
As an avid gamer myself, I strongly believe that there is positive potential for video games. From using them as means of alleviating stress or a reward after hard work to improving a variety of skills (ex: problem solving skills). On what topics do you think video games will have an important impact on and why?
There is a lot of evidence that gamers benefit from learning to make fast decisions using a range of information. They also develop effective visual search skills. There are also games that promote problem solving and collaboration. In many ways, video games can promote all kinds of skills that are also learned in real interactions, but games can develop those skills without significant potential for bodily harm or loss of resources.
I do have to admit that there are the negatives about them, notably the relationship between violent games with behavior and their addictive property. How would you address these problems with the general public, namely with children and teens considering their windows of vulnerability?
I think it is important for people to recognize that games can potentially increase people’s tendency toward aggressive reactions. The data on this are mixed, but there is probably at least some short-term effect in which people react more aggressively after playing violent video games.
Last question, are there any advice you would like to give to upcoming researchers using video games or other hobbies/interests as platforms for their research?
The greatest potential for video games is the opportunity to look at the influence of long-term behaviors on what people learn and how they act. Most psychology studies use short-term interventions. Gamers spend a lot of time playing games, though, so there is a chance to look at bigger influences of the way people behave on what they do later.
Hopefully this article helps some of you to consider being researchers on video games; the world could always use more researchers, no matter where your interests are.