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Does gaming boost cognitive skills? The impact of gaming genres on cognition and wellbeing SSS21

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: SSS21

With more than two billion gamers in 2021, videogames have become a major leisure activity and may have a positive impact on gamers’ health (e.g., reduced stress and depression) and cognition (e.g., task-switching, attention). However, findings on gaming and cognition are currently mixed and there are limitations in the literature. First, much of previous work uses a correlational approach, preventing any causality assessment, although a few experimental studies show promising results. Second, many of these studies focus on participants who play action videogames, limiting conclusions to this game genre, while other game genres require different cognitive skills (e.g., real-time strategy requires fast task switching, whilst first-person shooters need rapid reactions to visual cues). Finally, most studies explore specific aspects of cognition (e.g., working memory) rather than covering cognitive skills more broadly.

Therefore, this project has two central objectives:

  1. to observe whether videogames have a positive impact on cognition and wellbeing
  2. to examine whether the game genre (e.g., real-time strategy) interacts with the type of cognitive skill and wellbeing indicator measured.

First, a preliminary study will explore the most popular videogame genres. This will allow the selection of a series of popular videogames differing in terms of structural characteristics and required cognitive skills. Second, an online study comprising psychometric measures (e.g., impulsivity, Gaming Disorder, stress, depression) and experimental tasks assessing cognitive skills (e.g., task-switching, attentional guidance) will be conducted with gamers. This correlational approach will establish the potential links between gaming and cognition, as well as how these links differ across game genres. Finally, experiments will explore causality between playing specific game genres and cognitive skills by training non-gamers with the associated videogames to observe whether gaming leads to cognitive skills enhancement and improvements in wellbeing. To further the study of causality, later stages of the project may use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or neurofeedback to inhibit or facilitate cognitive function and assess impacts on gaming training.

This multidisciplinary and mixed methods project is innovative because it will study causal impacts of playing particular games on cognition and wellbeing and contribute to our understanding of the complex effects of gaming on cognitive functioning and wellbeing, including how skills development may have impacts in the workplace, for mental health, regarding neurodiversity and potentially for rehabilitative purposes for those with neuropsychological conditions. The student will benefit from world-class facilities and training.

Supervisory team

  • Dr Filip Nuyens (Doctor of Studies)
  • Dr Christina Howard
  • Dr Daria Kuss

School strategic research priority

This project is directly aligned with both the Centre for Behavioural Research Methods (Brain Behaviour and Cognition School theme) and the Centre for Public & Psychosocial Health (Addiction and Aberrant Behaviours, Interactive and Assistive Technologies, and Lifespan Development School themes).

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

Still need help?

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