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[REVIEW] Video games, cognitive exercises, and the enhancement of cognitive abilities – Full Text HTML

Highlights

• Cognitive training tools fall into two bins: video games and cognitive exercises.

• Factors such as fun, motivation, and adaptivity often differ across approaches.

• Expectancy and dose size can influence study effects during validation experiments.

• Hybrid tools leveraging the strengths of each approach may guide this field forward.

In this review we explore the emerging field of cognitive training via distinct types of interactive digital media: those designed primarily for entertainment (‘video games’) and those created for the purpose of cognitive enhancement (‘cognitive exercises’). Here we consider how specific design factors associated with each tool (e.g., fun, motivation, adaptive mechanics) and the study itself (e.g., participant expectancy, dose effects) can influence cognitive enhancement effects. We finally describe how the development of hybrid interventions that capitalize on strengths of each type of interactive digital media are anticipated to emerge as this field matures.

 

There are a number of interventions that have demonstrated the potential to enhance cognitive abilities, ranging from the more traditional (e.g., nutrition, exercise) to the more technological (e.g., pharmaceuticals, genetic therapies, neurostimulation). One approach, although still controversial [1], that has been gaining momentum is the use of interactive digital media to augment cognition, typically referred to as cognitive training. Over the last decade, there has been a surge in the number of interactive software programs created with claims of their ability to improve fundamental aspects of cognition known as cognitive control (i.e., attention, working memory, and goal management (multi-tasking/task-switching)). Although there have been promising results, few studies have successfully demonstrated clear improvements on untrained cognitive tasks (what we refer to as cognitive enhancement, generalized benefits or transfer 2• and 3]), and often not even for abilities that are highly related to training itself (i.e., near transfer 3, 4, 5 and 6]). In this review we differentiate between two types of interactive digital media: those designed primarily for entertainment [7•] (‘video games’) and those created for the purpose of cognitive enhancement (‘cognitive exercises’). Exploring this dichotomy, we will consider how certain factors associated with each type of intervention and corresponding study designs may influence the potential for cognitive enhancement and for validating it experimentally.

Video games and cognitive exercises

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