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Oxford Study Says Videogames and Films Boost IQ

A study released by Oxford University last week states that watching films and playing computer games can positively affect IQ and vocabulary, especially in children. The films and games have been shown to expose the kids to new languages while simultaneously allowing them to learn how to adapt to new scenarios. Among the films and videogames used to conduct the study were Despicable Me 1 & 2, The Lego Movie, Minecraft and Flappy Bird. The study was conducted by experts, all of whom are members of the Oxford University Press.

Among the findings of the study was that words used frequently in upcoming games and movies were used significantly more than words which didn’t regularly occur in popular game and movie culture. For example, a significant rise in the usage of words “ocelot”, “nether” and “spawn” has occurred in the past year, owing to the frequent occurrence of these words in Minecraft. “Minion” was declared the children’s word of the year—occuring more than 250 times in essays and non-fiction pieces written by the kids. These pieces were from BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition which challenges kids under 13 to submit creative written work. A total of 118,632 entries were submitted this year.

While previous popular research has warned that exposure to television, movies and gaming consoles is detrimental to children’s education, this new Oxford study has become the spectacle for debunking a study conducted last year which claimed that the exposure to gaming, films and shows dulls the young mind.

Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at the Oxford University Press says that older studies may have just been looking in the wrong places—using traditional markers for new skills. She says that this more interactive medium has definitely had a positive effect on the children’s IQ, especially where vocabulary is concerned. She goes onto say that it is very fascinating that children these days are writing about minions, portals and ocelots—things which they’ve never encountered in real life. She stresses the fact that even if these aren’t everyday words, the students were able to use them in correct context. Reading and comprehension has definitely grown, Ms. Gupta says—literacy begets the transformation of kids into better, more attentive readers. This development is in congruence with the fact that more recent videogames and films are better thought out and also have education in mind. She also adds that these games which are narrative-centered help kids learn about contingency and story-telling.

Along with this, the study also found that the kids used text-speak in their work: “OMG”, “BFF” and “LOL” all appeared in their written output—however, this was all in the context of telling a story (e.g. conversation) and not as a device to compensate for the absence of knowledge. Researchers also found complex words such as “blatherskite”, “tintinnabulation” and “collywobbles” occurring rather frequency in this year’s body of work. This year’s longest word throughout the entire competition is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis”—a 45-letter word pertaining to an illness of the lungs which occurs as a result of the inhalation of very fine dust and ash.

Kate Nation, who is a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University said that far from the earlier assumption that videogames and movies were stunting the growth of children’s imaginations, the stories which came in for this year’s contest were alive and extremely creative. She says that the visual representation of media may have instead upped the need for creativity and provided more stimuli for the kids to get creative with. She goes onto state that the kids were able to use old words in new and exciting ways.

They also noted that most of the work centered around current events—natural disasters, national holidays or events—and had a surprisingly resonant voice which talked about the effects of climate change and other big happenings on the human condition. This study hopes that their findings will find a way into the way that language, reading and comprehension are taught throughout the entire world.



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