ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (10): 1843-1855.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.01843

• Meta-Analysis • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of action video games on different attentional subnetworks: Evidence from a meta-analysis

CONG Xinrui1, WU Zeyu1, MANZULA·Aishanjiang 1, JIANG Yunpeng1,2,3, LIU Yan1, WU Xia1,2,3()   

  1. 1Faculty of Psychology, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387, China
    2Key Research Base of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Ministry of Education, Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin 300387, China
    3Tianjin Social Science Laboratory of Students' Mental Development and Learning, Tianjin 300387, China
  • Received:2022-11-18 Online:2023-10-15 Published:2023-07-25


Action video games (AVG) require participants to rapidly process and accurately respond to multiple complex pieces of information within a wide field of vision. Attention, which is the direction and concentration of consciousness to a certain object or location, plays an important role in cognitive processing and everyday life. However, whether AVG can boost attention development has been a controversy issue in previous studies. Some studies indicated that the AVG could enhance players' attention ability, while others reported that the attention of players was not impacted by AVG. The reason for this controversy may be that the previous researchers had not taken into account the varying characteristics of the subnetworks of attention. In order to further clarify the mechanisms of AVG's effects on players' attention, this study will examine the effects of AVG on different attentional sub-networks (alertness, orientation and executive control) and, at the same time, use behavioral indicators as moderating variables to provide more clarity on the relationship between AVG and different attentional sub-networks.

The aim of this meta-analysis was to investigate the relationship between AVGs and attentional subnetworks. English and Chinese literature was searched from January 2009 to December 2021. Studies were included in the analysis if they clearly distinguished between action video game groups and non-action video game groups to examine the relationship between action video games and player attention, if the study clearly reported the sample size of subjects and the study methodology, and if the study provided detailed statistical information related to the amount of effect that could be calculated (e.g., sample size, mean, F-value or t-value, p-value, etc.) and did not contain obvious errors .The studies were obtained by searching the keywords action video game, shooter game, attention, visual search, orienting, etc., from the full-text databases of China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang, Web of Science, PubMed and PsycInfo. Leading to the inclusion of 28 studies and 71 independent effect sizes. Data coding and analysis was performed using Comprehensive Meta Analysis 3.0 to examine main and moderating effects. Random effect models were employed to assess heterogeneity in alertness, orientation and executive control. Funnel plot and Rosenthal's Nfs test of publication bias revealed no significant publication bias.

The main effect test found that AVGs had various influences on attentional, alertness, orientation and executive control, with the alertness network (d = 0.75, 95%Cl = [0.41, 1.10]) exhibiting the strongest effects. However, presenting moderately low effects on orienting (d = 0.58, 95% Cl = [0.42, 0.74]) and low effects on executive control (d = 0.39, 95% Cl = [0.25, 0.53]), the results suggest that AVG has an effect on all attentional subnetworks, but compared to the effects on orienting and executive function networks, the effect on the vigilance network the effects were somewhat stronger for the attentional network. Whereas all three attentional subnetworks were significantly moderated by behavioural indicators, the results showed that the value of the effect of accuracy was greater than the value of the effect of reaction time, indicating that the effect of AVG on attention was more sensitive to response time compared to accuracy. To sum up, these results indicate that AVGs are most closely associated with attentional alertness, and are influenced by response times.

In sum, this meta-analysis not only elucidates the disputes and contradictions in earlier studies, but also elucidates the association between AVGs and attention, thus furnishing new evidence for the evolution of brain plasticity and the educational implications of AVGs. This study can contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between AVGs and attention, providing a basis for comparing results across different studies.

Key words: action video games (AVG), attention, meta-analysis, moderating effect, alertness

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