Video Games Help Improve Reading Ability, Researcher Finds

( According to a graduate student from the University of Saskatchewan, playing video games regularly may improve the peripheral attention skills essential for reading.

Psychology graduate student Shaylyn Kress led a research team to determine the effect playing video games may have on reading skills. Her team analyzed what types of video games were most popular then assessed each to determine the average number of objects placed peripherally to which players had to react and compared that to their reactions to objects placed in the middle.

The participants completed an attention-demanding reading task that involved words flashing in one of eight distinct locations on the screen. The “words” included a mix of well-known, easy-to-read words, along with fake words requiring participants to read phonetically.

The study determined that being exposed to more peripheral demands in video games likely honed the visual attention systems in the brain that are also required for quick and efficient reading. Participants with more peripheral exposure tended to have faster reading reactions than those with limited or no peripheral exposure.

This held true whether the participants were reading the well-known words or the made-up phonetic words, leading Kress to conclude that playing video games with more peripheral exposure not only helps in sight-reading but also with the “phonetic decoding” of words.

In short, participants with more experience with peripheral visual demands from video games may be able to read known words and sound out new words faster than those who do not regularly play video games.

Since attention is a vital part of reading, Kress explained, activities that “impact attentional processes” like playing video games may improve reading abilities as well.

Kress believes her research could help develop video games geared at improving the skill development of adults and children as well as create educational games specifically designed to improve reading abilities.

Kress conducted the study as part of her master of arts degree which she completed in 2020. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Saskatchewan where she will further explore the role of peripheral visual demands on reading performance.