I just finished reading the oddly titled article Dome Improvement over at Wired and I must say I’m mildly confused and extremely interested in this topic. The article looks at the steady climb of IQ in the civilized world. It attributes the rise partially to genetics and not as much to environment (among other things) and it makes some interesting observations. Like this one, regarding twins:
Identical twins raised in different environments have IQs almost as similar to each other as the same person tested twice, while adopted children living together – shared environment, but no shared genes – show no correlation.
But what does this have to do with video games? Well, the author of these studies wonders where this increase in IQ is coming from. It can’t be schooling, given the current state of our public school system (which I don’t buy completely). It also can’t be correlated with nutrition, since diets haven’t changed for the better since the 50’s. So what is making kids smarter? The explosion of media, including — you guessed it — those evil video games!
The best example of brain-boosting media may be videogames. Mastering visual puzzles is the whole point of the exercise – whether it’s the spatial geometry of Tetris, the engineering riddles of Myst, or the urban mapping of Grand Theft Auto.
That might be a stretch for some, but I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve seen my four year old nephew play computer games like it’s second nature to him. My two year old daughter can recognize different characters in video games and she know I’m supposed to shake trees to get the fruit out of trees in Animal Crossing. These might not be developing life skills but they are helping these little minds develop. In my book that’s a good thing.
And I think the author of the Wired article is a pretty good authority on this topic. He’s the author of Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, which sounds like an interesting read. I’ll have to check it out.