Video Games and the Driver’s Brain
Happy Friday everyone! For a change of pace, let’s take a look at one of the unlikeliest automobile and driving apps available for smart devices.
No, really! Stay with me for a moment.
Research suggests that action video games like the oldie-but-goodie, Pac-Man could actually make you a better driver!
Driving is a rather difficult, non-intuitive task for our human brains to comprehend. It requires us to not only coordinate foot and hand movement while swapping positions, keeping an eye on lights and gauges, keeping tabs on your position while calculating velocity and position of other cars on the road relative to time.
Whew! It makes me dizzy just typing it!
On paper, it seems like an impossible feat, but our brains are able to grow, learn and make the permanent neural connections that make driving second nature to us.
“If you think about it, the attentional and working memory demands of video games can be much greater than other tasks,” says Michael Stroud, professor of psychology at Merrimack College. “In Pac-Man, you must navigate your character through a spatial layout while monitoring the separate paths of four additional objects (the ghosts), while keeping the overall goal of clearing the small pellets in memory, as well as keeping track of the remaining large pellets.”
They may seem like nothing more than silly time-wasters, but games like Pac-Man may be able to rewire our brains to handle larger amounts of multi-tasking and spacial reasoning in a fun and more intuitive way.
“Think about how this may apply to skills such as driving,” Mr. Stroud continues. “When you drive your car, you are faced with a constantly changing environment in the road, not to mention several other distractions that compete for attention that reside in the car. At the same time, you are attempting to navigate through the environment to reach a goal.”
Of course, this research is nothing new. Not really. Human children and young mammals learn intuitively by playing. Chess players have been shown to have increased abilities in spacial reasoning, total recall and pattern recognition, having to quickly think at least a dozen moves ahead on an 8×8 grid with limited movement. Players of Tetris, a faster paced, grid-based puzzle game, have exhibited similar abilities but with faster reaction times.
Spacial reasoning, multi-tasking, pattern recognition, total recall, fast reaction times. Sounds like a recipe for safer drivers, to me!
This year marks the 35th anniversiary of Pac-Man’s original arcade debut. Toru Iwatani’s creation probably caused a massive shortage of quarters, but it may have also raised a generation of better drivers.
And of course, better drivers mean lower insurance rates!
First Baldwin Insurance