Iowa State psychology professor Douglas Gentile to lead session at White House conference

Douglas Gentile

Douglas Gentile

AMES, Iowa -- Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University and world-renowned researcher on the effects of media on children, has been invited to lead one of the discussions at next week's White House conference on "Enhancing Well-being and Attentional Control through Games and Interactive Media: A Neuroscientific Approach."

Gentile's session, "Affective/Social behavior within video game-based interactions," will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 8:30 a.m. in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Indian Treaty Room at the White House. He will be presenting with Chade-Meng Tan, a best-selling author who was one of Google's earliest engineers, helping to build its first mobile search service. He now serves as Google's Jolly Good Fellow.

"There is a striking difference between learning from video games and learning in traditional educational settings," said Gentile, who runs the Media Research Lab at Iowa State. "In education, the gold standard is transfer of knowledge from the learning environment to the real world. And yet most of the research on education shows that transfer very rarely happens in the classroom.

"When we look at the research on video games, especially the unintentional effects -- such as the effects of action games on visual perception skills, or violent games on aggression -- these show remarkable transfer to novel situations," he continued. "Games are natural teachers and since children spend so much time playing them, we have an opportunity to use them to enhance children's well-being, especially if the researchers and game industry can work together. This conference is an important step in that direction."

Presenters were invited to participate in the conference by Constance Steinkuehler Squire, a senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she's shaping the Obama Administration's policies around games that improve health, education, civic engagement and the environment, among other areas.

Gentile was author of the landmark study finding that pathological patterns of video game addiction exist in youth (ages 8 to 18) and that nearly one in 10 of the gamers (8.5 percent) are pathological players. He led cross-cultural studies demonstrating that playing prosocial games can increase helpful and cooperative behaviors -- both in the short-term and long-term. He also was one of three Iowa State authors of a book titled "Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents" (Oxford University Press, 2007), which reported on three studies finding evidence of the adverse effects of violent video game exposure on the behavior of children and adolescents.

Following his presentation at the White House, Gentile will travel to Hanover, Germany, where he has been invited to participate in an international workshop that aims to adapt and refine the diagnostic criteria for video game and Internet addiction.

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