Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Judy Shedden


Scott Watter



Committee Member

Bruce Milliken


Video games players (VGPs) regularly demonstrate marked success over non-video game players (NVGPs) on a variety of tasks that tap visuospatial attention. Localization of these benefits remains elusive. Drawing from experiments reported in this thesis and considering each in light of the current literature, it would appear that said benefits are the result of development of the mechanisms and processes involved in the representation of visuospatial information rather than due to a benefit of higher cognitive control mechanisms. This assertion is supported by a series of effects. First, experience with an action video game immediately prior to a measure of visuospatial attention showed no effect on performance. VGPs demonstrated only a general tendency to complete the task more rapidly than NVGPs. There was no indication that VGPs may have been engaging contextually-related control mechanisms to more efficiently search through displays. Second, VGPs did not experience a general task switching benefit during trials that included a high level of proactive interference, only outperforming NVGPs when provided with enough time and information to engage in endogenous task-set reconfiguration. Finally, previous work has demonstrated parietal slow wave ERP correlates of central executive activity in working memory, with greater amplitudes of these components indexing increased executive control demands. In the present work, VGPs showed distinctively smaller degrees of central-executive (CE) related ERP activity in a demanding visuospatial WM condition relative to NVGPs, while maintaining equivalent behavioural performance. Thus, VGPs appear to recruit smaller degrees of CE-related processing compared to NVGPs on difficult visuospatial tasks. Taken together, these findings suggest that the observed performance benefits for VGPs in visuospatial tasks are likely not due to improved cognitive control ability, but are more probably the result of a superior representational ability for visuospatial information.

McMaster University Library