Michigan State psychology professor Linda Jackson freely admits she had no idea
what a bombshell her findings about video games would prove to be.
Jackson is the lead researcher on a study published last year in the academic journal
"Computers in Human Behavior" that shows 12-year-olds who play video games are
more creative than those who don't. The research also demonstrates that a child's usage
of cellphones, computers or the Internet has no statistical correlation to creativity.
Needless to say, such findings brazenly defy decades of research that suggest
prolonged exposure to video games would harm children's brains. Conventional wisdom
has held that a link exists between playing video games and negative traits like social
isolation and violent behavior.
"The results did surprise me," Jackson said. "I expected the reverse. But of course once
you get the results, then you do an after-the-fact explanation.
"And video games demand a lot of imagination, a lot of thinking about the unexpected —
or being able to anticipate the less-probable response. People who can do those sorts
of things tend to be more creative."
The work of Jackson and her colleagues is part of a growing body of new research that
collectively calls into question the conventional wisdom that too many video games inflict
significant harm on children and families.
A shifting landscape
For Wall Street Journal science writer Richard Lee Hotz, the shift in thinking on video games
really took hold when he came across Jackson's research late last year. Hotz, twice a
Pulitzer Prize finalist and a past president of the National Association of Science Writers,
has covered science and technology at major newspapers for more than 30 years. He had
grown accustomed to seeing study after study about the perils of video games — research
that often involved a small number of participants or received funding from third parties looking
for specific results to advance their narrative.
"Since video games were first introduced," Hotz said, "we've been inundated with research papers
that have suggested strongly that these games are very bad for people. … The studies were very,
very small, and involved only a handful of people.
"Recently, there's been a series of thoughtful papers by researchers who have no particular
connection to the gaming interest and no particular interest in it, that has pointed out how half-baked
a lot of this research has been."
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