Recently, I stumbled across the idea of cognitive flexibility—and yet another reason to game. If you were excited, like I was, to learn that there is a game that helps you boost your resilience and overcome setbacks like depression and anxiety, then hold on to your pants! Researchers have found that gamers (specifically of first-person shooters like Call of Duty) have greater cognitive flexibility than non-gamers.
Cognitive flexibility is the “mental ability to adjust thinking or attention in response to changing goals and/or environmental stimuli” (Wikipedia, FTW!). So when you are trying to attain an in-game objective and someone starts shooting at you from behind, you obviously have to adapt your strategy. Your environment has changed. You cannot simply continue with your previous course of action. You must be cognitively flexible and respond to the change.
Elderly people with aging brains, as well as people with neuropsychiatric disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anorexia nervosa, are less cognitively flexible. For instance, people with OCD can become fixated on something and experience difficulty in shifting their attention. I’m filled with giddy delight at the thought that such people could benefit from a prescription of video game play (supplementing more traditional treatment, of course).
Others, however, can benefit too, so keep on gaming! Besides slowing your own natural mental decline, you’re also boosting your mental health as well as increasing your overall brain function. If first-person shooters aren’t your thing, check out specifically designed brain training games like Luminosity.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m off to watch my boyfriend demonstrate his cognitive flexibility while he plays Overwatch. AFK!