Sunday, April 05, 2015

Do video games make you SMARTER? Gamers found to learn more quickly than those who don't play

Another good answer to the "fears" of the pandering Baroness Greenfield

Playing video games makes you better at learning than non-gamers, a study has claimed.

Research found that gaming boosts the ability to learn a number of tasks more accurately, and possibly puts gamers in an 'expert category' of problem solving.

But the researchers note they are not quite sure if gaming makes people learn skills better - or if people who learn skills better are more likely to become gamers.

The research was carried out by scientists at Brown University in Rhode Island.

To conduct the study, the researchers pitted nine frequent gamers against a control group of nine people who game rarely, if ever.

They participated in a two-day trial of visual task learning. In visual processing research this is a standard protocol called a ‘texture discrimination task.’

Prior studies have shown that people can be trained to improve their performance in the task, but if they move on to a second task too quickly, it can interfere with the learning process.

The researchers wanted to find out if gamers could overcome this interference better, compared to non-gamers.

And the results showed that gamers managed to improve performance on both tasks, while non-gamers did what was expected.

That is, they improved on the second task they trained on, but not on the first. Learning the second task interfered with learning the first.

The data show that gamers on average improved their combination of speed and accuracy by about 15 per cent on their second task and about 11 per cent on their first task.

Non-gamers produced the same average 15 per cent improvement on their second task, but they actually got a bit worse on the first task they learned, by about 5 per cent.

Despite the small number of participants, the results proved statistically significant.

‘When we study perceptual learning we usually exclude people who have tons of video game playing time because they seem to have different visual processing. They are quicker and more accurate,' said senior author Dr Yuka Sasaki, associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University.

‘But they may be in an expert category of visual processing.

‘We sometimes see that an expert athlete can learn movements very quickly and accurately and a musician can play the piano at the very first sight of the notes very elegantly, so maybe the learning process is also different.

‘Maybe they can learn more efficiently and quickly as a result of training.’

The exact neural mechanisms underlying visual or perceptual learning are not yet known, Dr Sasaki said, but the study suggests that gamers may have a more efficient process for hardwiring their visual task learning than non-gamers.

‘It may be possible that the vast amount of visual training frequent gamers receive over the years could help contribute to honing consolidation mechanisms in the brain, especially for visually developed skills,’ the researchers wrote.

Being certain will require more research. Importantly, the study doesn't prove whether playing video games improves learning ability or whether people with an innate ability become gamers because they find gaming more rewarding.

The study also has a stark gender imbalance between the nearly all-male gamer group and the nearly all-female non-gamer group.

But the researchers could not find evidence in the literature for gender differences in perceptual learning that would make this disparity worrisome.

By documenting these and other apparent cognitive differences between gamers and non-gamers, the field is discovering that there is more to video games than merely passing the time, lead author and graduate student Aaron Berard said.

‘A lot of people still view video games as a time-wasting activity even though research is beginning to show their beneficial aspects,’ Mr Berard said.

‘If we can demonstrate that video games may actually improve some cognitive functioning, perhaps we, as a society, can embrace newer technology and media with positive application.’


What Jokes Are Too Insensitive?

Comedy Central hosted another one of its vicious and disgusting celebrity "roasts" on March 30, with Justin Bieber as the target. During the "pre-show" before the roast, unfunny comedian Jeff Ross arrived wearing a pope costume and accompanied by sexy "nuns" in black habits and fishnet stockings.

Red-carpet host Sarah Tiana introduced him as the "popemaster general" and gushed,"You look amazing. You're going to be hilarious." Ross replied, "Bless you, Sarah. Congratulations on all of your abortions."

The slaughter of innocent babies is hilarious, apparently. During the roast, rapper Snoop Dogg lashed out at Bieber. "Now when your mama was 17 years old and got pregnant, everybody told her to get an abortion, right? ... And they still trying to convince her right now." Comedian Natasha Leggero cracked that Bieber has "moves" because "he was in the womb dodging a coat hanger."

Question: If that isn't controversial — to say the least — what is?

Answer: Poking fun at transgenders.

On the iHeartRadio Music Awards that same evening, actor Jamie Foxx made fun of 65-year-old Olympics legend Bruce Jenner, who is reportedly pondering a "transition" away from his "assigned" maleness.

Jenner "will be here doing a his-and-hers duet by himself," Foxx announced while a photo of Jenner flashed behind him. "I'm just busting your balls while I still can."

Horrors. There is nothing the transgender lobby hates more than crotch jokes. Many prominent "trans women" show outrage and refuse to answer whether they have retained their male genitals.

A flood of social-media accusations of mean-spirited "transphobia" led to stories by CNN, MSNBC, TMZ, USA Today and others. The most amazing part was who was allowed to pose as guardians of civility. USA Today quoted a tweet from gay gossip columnist Perez Hilton: "Boo! Shame on you #iHeartAwards for allowing #iamjamiefoxx to be transphobic on national television! Those #BruceJenner jokes were wrong!"

This is the same Perez Hilton who ruined Miss America contestant Carrie Prejean for not "correctly" answering his endorse-gay-marriage demand during the pageant's question-and-answer routine on NBC and then called her a "dumb (B-word)." This is the same Perez Hilton best known for routinely drawing graffiti on photos on his blog: semen dripping out of the mouths of celebrities, both male and female.

Shame on anyone who thinks this pig has the right to pass judgment on anyone's civility.

Then came rapper Kanye West, whose wife, Kim Kardashian, is Jenner's stepdaughter.

"Kanye wants Jamie to publicly apologize to Bruce and his daughters," an insider explained to the gossip site "He's tight with Jamie, but taking jabs at Bruce's sexuality at an awards show, let alone one for kids, is just wrong. ... Really Kanye thinks Jamie made a fool of himself, more than a fool of Bruce."

So Kanye West — the jerk who said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" in the middle of a Hurricane Katrina fundraiser on national TV — is now playing Miss Manners and insisting that someone else made a fool of himself on the boob tube.

Kanye West — the guy who raps that Jesus is the "most high," but he's a "close high." This is the guy who stopped a "song" at a concert in Australia to demand that everyone stand up, and those who didn't had to display a prosthetic limb and a wheelchair to prove they weren't showing disrespect to the rapper.

Jenner apparently demands nothing but respect. The pope invites ridicule. Abortion is funny. God help us. Our world is upside down.


'Let them bloody well go': Ukip candidate says British teenagers who want to join ISIS should be given FREE flights

British teenagers who want to join ISIS should be given free seats on flights to Iraq and Syria, a Ukip candidate has said.

Keith Fraser, who is standing in Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said money should be spent on chartering planes rather than trying to stop them fighting with extremists.

Around 600 Britons are believed to have fled to Syria including a group of three schoolgirls from east London.

Mr Fraser said: ‘We have many young people wanting to join up with their “brothers” in IS. Let them bloody well go.

‘Why are we concerned in wasting our time and resources in assuring these people don’t go to join?

‘Instead let’s find out who wants to go and we can then spend public money in chartering our own planes to take them there. We don’t need these traitors in our beloved country.

‘They can hand over their British passports on the way out and say don’t ever try and come back.’

The Ukip candidate, who currently works as a chartered surveyor, said that the extremists ‘have one aim to convert or murder all “non-believers”.’

He added: ‘They don’t like our freedom, want to destroy our way of life and will not rest until they fly their flag over our shores.’

Mr Fraser’s comments came as Nigel Farage revealed the party’s pledge card, which includes saying no to the EU, controlling the country's borders, an extra £3 billion for the NHS, cuts in foreign aid spending and no tax on the minimum wage.

At the launch in Westminster, the Ukip leader said it is now ‘a party of what modern Britain is’.

He said: ‘The thing about Ukip is we have become the most eclectic, diverse political party.

‘We've got all shades of opinion, we've got people from the left, people from the right, people of all ages, all classes, all races.’

Although the posters include a pledge to control the UK's borders, the word ‘immigration’ does not feature.

The leader was joined by Ukip MP Mark Reckless and other senior Ukip figures, but Clacton MP Douglas Carswell did not attend the event as he was campaigning in his constituency.

Mr Farage said a strong showing for Ukip at May's election could boost the calls for electoral reform, which in turn could make his eurosceptics a ‘big party in British politics’.

He said: ‘I've always thought there should be election reform but that is frankly irrelevant in the next 38 days.

‘Yes, this is very hard for us because you find good Ukip support in Labour constituencies and in Conservative constituencies.

‘Yes, that's a challenge but what we have to do is to get over the line in enough seats in this General Election campaign and then you'll see how many seats we've actually come second in, and you'll realise as part of a longer-term strategy this really could become a big party in British politics.’

On his quest to become an MP in South Thanet, Mr Farage said he was facing a ‘hell of a fight’.  He said: ‘There are easier seats I could have gone for. I am confident but certainly not complacent.’

Asked if his party could get into double figures for seats, he replied: ‘Of course we can.’

When questioned about the significance of the TV debate later this week, Mr Farage replied: ‘It is important for all of us, but yes the stakes are high.’


The amazing power of genetics -- as revealed by identical twins

Some find them unnerving and even slightly creepy while, to others, they are endearing, mysterious and charming. Whatever your view, one thing’s for certain: when it comes to twins, particularly identical ones, they are an endless source of fascination.

Yet, despite all this interest, the rest of us remain baffled, emotionally and scientifically, by the uncanny bonds identical twins share.

Having spent a year researching twins for my new novel, I have come to realise that we are only beginning to grasp how strange they truly are and quite why they have compelled us for thousands of years.

Take pre-colonial Brazilians, who thought twins were a product of adultery, resulting in the poor innocent mother often being executed for her supposed infidelity.

Some primitive African societies abhorred twins because of the way multiple births resemble an animal’s litter. It wasn’t uncommon for the unlucky children to be slaughtered and their mother exiled.

In Greek mythology, however, twins were believed to be the product of human intercourse with the gods, meaning they were sacred, while ancient Slavs maintained that twins shared one special soul.

Not all monozygotic twins (i.e. twins born from a single fertilised egg) are truly identical. Some are ‘mirror image’ twins.

This means that in one twin the hair might swirl clockwise, in the other twin it will swirl anticlockwise — but it will swirl in exactly the same way. For one twin, the left side of the mouth might curve upwards; in the other twin, the right side of the mouth has precisely the same curve.

This peculiar ‘looking-glass effect’ extends to the positioning of internal organs. But many identicals are truly identical in ways we are still uncovering.

Obviously, identical twins share facial characteristics and body shape. But they also share virtually identical DNA, meaning they are more closely related to each other than to anyone else, including their parents or their own children.

A daring £5 million jewel heist was carried out at a Berlin department store in 2009. Closed-circuit TV showed one of three masked man removing a glove at the scene, which the police later recovered. The glove provided DNA evidence traced to identical twin brothers. But with no way of pinning it on one brother, both were acquitted.

Identicals also share the same blood group, the same hormones, the same serum proteins; they are alike in heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, respiratory rate and digestive process.

Parents often refuse, believing they will be able to distinguish their twins as they age (not least, by dressing them differently).

This, however, can be a mistake because twins can grow more identical over time (as their identical DNA asserts itself, following different levels of nourishment in the womb).

And twins often end up being dressed in exactly the same clothes anyway, lest one become jealous of the other getting ‘better’ treatment.

Here, we enter the peculiar world of twin psychology.

Over recent decades, scientists such as Thomas Bouchard, of the Minnesota Centre For Twin And Family Research, have analysed the personalities of twins and discovered seriously uncanny facts. Take the classic example of twins separated at birth. The extent to which they can echo each other in later life is breathtaking.

One of my favourite cases is the separated twins who discovered, when reunited, that they both entered the sea on beach holidays by wading backwards up to their knees.

Probably the most famous case of eerie identicality is that of Jim Lewis and Jim Springer. These identical American twins were separated when four weeks old, and adopted by different families in Ohio.

When reunited at the age of 39, in 1979, they discovered that both of them suffered from tension headaches, both had worked as sheriff’s deputies and both smoked Salem cigarettes.

They also drove exactly the same kind of car and both enjoyed woodworking in the garage.

Both had been named James by their respective adoptive parents, and both had married twice — first to women named Linda, then to women called Betty. Both had produced sons named James Allan. Both had at one time owned dogs named Toy. And they both took their holidays at the very same beach in Florida.

Some parents of twins have reported their children having identical dreams. Others recount twins suffering pains, in the same part of the body, when only one of them is hurt.

Doctors who observe twins in the womb have watched identicals do a strange kind of matching twin dance: the fetal twins come close to each other, face to face, then one of the twins makes a circle, and the other does the very same. It as if they are, in utero, telepathically aware of each other’s movements.

Even in death, twins share an incredible bond. A prime, if rather dark, example is the 72‑year‑old brothers in Finland. In 2002, they were killed on their bicycles on the same road in Northern Finland in two accidents, two hours apart.

When one twin survives the death of another, they likewise possess an oddness which startles. Author Joan Woodward, in her 2009 study of twin bereavement, reported several striking examples of twins’ reactions when one of them dies.

Some young twins simply do not believe the death, and continue to act as if the lost twin is alive, talking to the dead sibling at breakfast, in a shared twin language, for instance.

Other infant twins seem painfully confused as to whether their twin is really gone, because they keep seeing the living image of their dead sibling in the mirror or in a reflecting window; when they see themselves, they see the sibling.

By contrast, a few bereaved twin children deliberately seek out mirrors in order to reassure themselves their dead twin lives on. They want to see the living ghost.

Other twins react differently still. Woodward records how some, following the death of a co-twin, take over their lost sibling’s characteristics and behaviour, as if trying to make up for the loss by actually becoming the dead sibling.

One twin whose brother died at the age of 12 became so eerily like his dead sibling that his parents were convinced he had the ‘spirit of his brother within him’. Another female twin was so grief-stricken she took her dead sister’s name.

These strange reactions surrounding the deaths of identicals can have effects beyond the twins themselves.

During my research, I came across one wholly remarkable example of twin confusion, following a death. It happened in California in the Nineties (though the details and names have been protected by the authorities, for obvious reasons).

One day, driving off on holiday, the Andersons — father, mother and their identical twin daughters Samantha and Katie — had a terrible crash. An ambulance was called and the victims were cut from the car.

However, after reaching the hospital, Samantha soon died and Katie was left in a coma.

It was a horrific loss, but life had to go on. The family concentrated on helping the hospitalised Samantha get over the death of her twin.

A funeral for Katie was held. And yet, as her surviving daughter improved, mum Sally found it strange that Samantha behaved so much like her dead sister.

Finally, Sally studied her child’s birthmark very closely (the twins had similar but not identical birthmarks) and realised a terrible mistake had been made — Katie had survived and Samantha had died.

This realisation occurred two weeks after the accident. The Andersons had buried the ‘wrong’ daughter.

It was reading that extraordinary true-life story — and all these other facts — that gave me the idea for a thriller. What would happen if the Andersons’ experience was repeated, but the family only discovered their error a year later? What ghostly consequences might ensue?

Whatever the answer, one thing I know for sure is that twins will continue to fascinate us because they pose so many profound and unsettling questions.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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