Wait! What? Playing video games might actually be good for you? Well, it might be, at least when it comes to playing music video games such as the enormously popular Rock Band and Guitar Hero, a UNLV study has found.
The study, conducted by UNLV psychology professors Amanda Pasinski, Erin Hannon, and Joel Snyder, showed that people who often play music video games outperform nonmusicians on musical listening skills, such as the perception of melody, tuning, tempo, and rhythm.
“It’s well established that ‘trained musicians’ outperform ‘non-musicians on measures of sensory, cognitive, and motor functions,” Pasinski explained.
And for years, it seemed as if the only way to gain those cognitive benefits was to engage in formal training, Pasinski said. “But not everyone has the time, money or perseverance to learn a musical instrument.”
The UNLV study wanted to find out if people who play music video games might also have enhanced musical skills, despite their lack of traditional, formal, and often expensive musical training.
The study, which was published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, looked at three groups of people: Traditionally trained musicians, non-musicians, and music video game players, or gamers as they are commonly called.
What came next involved some formulas, graphs and charts.
“We found that scores on the Profile of Music Perception Skills, a test of basic musical listening abilities, were equivalently high for formally trained musicians and music video game players, who both scored higher than non-musicians,” Pasinski said.
The psychology professors found there are a few different explanations for these results. Playing music video games could directly improve musical aptitude, but it’s also possible that gamers (especially those who like Rock Band) tend to already have natural musical talent. Further research is currently under way to figure this out.
According to Pasinski, this is the first study to suggest that musical aptitude can be higher among individuals who engage in informal music activities that do not involve playing a musical instrument.
“Our findings support the notion that such listening advantages are not limited to musicians who have the time and resources to pursue formal training,” Pasinski said.
So turn on your XBox or Playstation, raise the volume, and start jamming! It might just improve your ears.