Playing video games reduces sex differences in spatial skills

Sep 28, 2007

University of Toronto researchers have discovered that differences between men and women on some tasks that require spatial skills are largely eliminated after both groups play a video game for only a few hours. The research, to be published in the October issue of Psychological Science, suggests that a new approach involving action video games can be used to improve spatial skills that are essential for everyday activities such as reading a map, driving a car, assembling a barbeque or learning advanced math.

"Our first experiment discovered a previously unknown sex difference in spatial attention,” said Jing Feng, a psychology doctoral student and lead author of the study.

“On average, women are not quite as good at rapidly switching attention among different objects and this may be one reason why women do not do as well on spatial tasks. But more important than finding that difference, our second experiment showed that both men and women can improve their spatial skills by playing a video game and that the women catch up to the men,” Feng added. “Moreover, the improved performance of both sexes was maintained when we assessed them again after five months.”

Professor Ian Spence, director of the engineering psychology laboratory in the Department of Psychology, speculates that the action video game experience “may cause the expression of previously inactive genes which control the development of neural connections that are necessary for spatial attention. Clearly, something dramatic is happening in the brain when we see marked improvements in spatial skills after only 10 hours of game playing and these improvements are maintained for many months.”

“One important application of this research could be in helping to attract more women to the mathematical sciences and engineering. Since spatial skills play an important role in these professions, bringing the spatial skills of young women up to the level of their male counterparts could help to change the gender balance in these fields that are so important to our economic health,” Spence added.

Source: University of Toronto

Explore further: Study finds physical signs of depression common among ICU survivors

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Longer commutes disadvantage African-American workers

Feb 15, 2014

African-Americans spend more time than any other group getting to work and in some cases spend about 15 minutes more a day than whites commuting, according to research by Virginia Parks, associate professor at the University ...

Could playing 'boys' games help girls in science and math?

Apr 04, 2013

The observation that males appear to be superior to females in some fields of academic study has prompted a wealth of research hoping to shed light on whether this is attributable to nature or nurture. Although there is no ...

Recommended for you

Take notes by hand for better long-term comprehension

4 hours ago

Dust off those Bic ballpoints and college-ruled notebooks—research shows that taking notes by hand is better than taking notes on a laptop for remembering conceptual information over the long term. The ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...

Study suggests targeting B cells may help with MS

A new study suggests that targeting B cells, which are a type of white blood cell in the immune system, may be associated with reduced disease activity for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The study is released today ...

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...