Action video game experience reduces the cost of switching tasks

Matthew S. Cain, Ayelet N. Landau, Arthur P. Shimamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Video game expertise has been shown to have beneficial effects for visual attention processes, but the effects of action video game playing on executive functions, such as task switching and filtering out distracting information, are less well understood. In the main experiment presented here, video game players (VGPs) and nonplayers (nVGPs) switched between two tasks of unequal familiarity: a familiar task of responding in the direction indicated by an arrow, and a novel task of responding in the opposite direction. nVGPs had large response time costs for switching from the novel task to the familiar task, and small costs for switching from the familiar task to the novel task, replicating prior findings. However, as compared to the nVGPs, VGPs were more facile in switching between tasks, producing overall smaller and more symmetric switching costs, suggesting that experience with action video games produces improvements in executive functioning. In contrast, VGPs and nVGPs did not differ in filtering out the irrelevant flanking stimuli or in remembering details of aurally presented stories. The lack of global differences between the groups suggests that the improved task-switching performance seen in VGPs was not due to differences in global factors, such as VGPs being more motivated than nVGPs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)641-647
Number of pages7
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by NIH Grant DA14110 and NSF Grant BCS-0745835 to A.P.S. Thanks to Bona Kang, Nola Klemfuss, Samuel Sakhai, Sadaf Sareshwala, Bailey Seymore, and Katharina Volkening for assistance with data collection.


  • Attention
  • Executive control


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