From an October installment of National Public Radio "Talk of the Nation" exploring the topic of multi-tasking and how modern citizens of this world can get better at it....
Daniel Weissman, University of Michigan professor who studies neuroscience and attention: Well, there's no question that technology is accelerating, and that all around us, we are multitasking all the time, essentially. And all around us are these distracting things, cell phones, Blackberry's, text messaging on cell phones. I mean, there's so many things that we're being pushed into a situation where learning to be good multi taskers is actually a very rewarding thing. It's interesting that you were talking before about what people can do to sort of improve their ability to multitask.
It actually reminds me of some studies that Daphne Bavelier and her colleagues, performed at the University of Rochester. They actually trained people to play video games. And what they showed was that after people were trained to play games, their attentional abilities on a wide variety of standard laboratory tasks, including tasks that required some switching between different mental sets or tasks, improved. Video games, I think when you talk about young people today are very popular. And it turned out that some of those results were very specific to particular video games and particular, the ones that are first person shoot them up "Doom" type games. But still, I think that these sorts of experiences may have a training effect that people can learn to become good multi-taskers, if they engage in activities that lend themselves to multitasking.
Humanity did not evolve to maximum efficiency, argued astronomer Frank Drake, creator of the famous Drake's Equation (used to quantify the existence of extraterrestrials), at a San Francisco launch event for "Spore" last night.
Drake unveiled his own "Spore" creation, dubbed the "Supersapien," in front of an enthused crowd huddled into a new, not-yet-opened science museum.
The Supersapien has four arms and a mouth near its stomach (the version we later found on the Sporepedia was lacking this, however). "It's a waste to use this long esophagus," he said. There's another mouth used for breathing and speaking. It also has an eye in the back of its head, which he joked would only occur in the female variety.
MTV Multiplayer has "Spore" on the brain lately. Look for plenty more coverage of Will Wright's opus very soon.
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The debate over whether games are good for you isn't likely to disappear anytime soon, but one recent study discovered an interesting positive.
A study filed by Cognitive Daily (via Andrew Sullivan) was investigating ways to close the gap traditionally found between the visuospatial skills (key to engineering and graphics work) of males and females; males typically perform better.
A mixed group of 20 non-gamers played "Medal of Honor: Airborne" for ten hours over a four week period and report back for testing. Another did the same for "Balance," a 3D puzzle game. The study found that for those assigned to "Medal of Honor," not only was the gap between males and females diminished, it was nearly erased entirely. The same result was not found with "Balance."
"So, could encouraging girls to play action video games actually improve their math and science skills?" asked the writer of the study. "It's certainly a possibility. It's intriguing that not just any game will improve these skills -- even a three-dimensional puzzle game didn't help; only the serious life-and-death action game seemed to work."
They do point out the study doesn't necessarily prove anything, but regards it as an interesting result. "I think another step is needed before we start promoting "Halo" as the answer to all sex discrimination," said researcher Dave Munger.