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Bingo – Good for the Mind?
by: John C. Thorenssen
When we think of bingo, genius and brainpower don't always spring to mind; these attributes have tended to be reserved for poker and other games of skill and luck. The image of a grandparent sitting in a community hall with a cup of tea and a card of bingo does not lend itself to the intrigue of psychology and mental agility. However, according to a study by the University of Southampton's Psychology Department, bingo may not be the trivial pastime many would take it for. Researchers there insist that bingo keeps the mind sharp and equate this as especially important to people as they get older.
The tests conducted revealed that bingo players were more accurate and faster in tests that measured memory, mental speed and their ability to absorb information from the environment around them, than those who did not play the game.
What seems to be the key advantage to the sustained playing of bingo is the concept of time. There is no doubt that games such as chess, poker and backgammon all stretch the mind and keep the brain functioning. Whereas the hand-eye coordination needed for bingo may not be as exhaustive as for other games, the time constraint in which players must check their numbers is key to the sustenance of mental agility.
The tests comprised of 112 people within the age brackets of 18 to 40 and 60 to 82. Half of each set played bingo. The results concluded that all bingo players were more accurate and quicker than non-players. Interestingly, in certain tests, the older players did better than the younger players. More and more research is supporting the theory that a regular partaking of activities that exercise the mind is very beneficial to the maintenance of optimum mental functioning as we get older.
Younger bingo players tended to be faster, but the older ones were more accurate. Many people have suggested that the reason people dismiss bingo as a "junior" gaming pastime is because we so often associate it with pensioners. The social stigma of bingo has kept it out of the major casinos and therefore reduced its respect amongst the "hipper" echelons of today's society.
Many would be led to conclude that the above study is simply out of proportion in the sense that a game of bingo is hardly a satisfactory workout for the mind in terms of endurance and mental skill. To an extent they would be right. But what the tests seem to be suggesting crucially, is that it is the prolonged or regular partaking in the game over a sustained period of time that will lead to cognitive benefits.
Then of course there are those who believe that any form of gambling being proclaimed to be beneficial to the mind is nothing short of an aberration. Whilst certainly milder in terms of the funds that change hands than other gambling games, bingo is still a game where one pays money to gain money and as such has been criticised from certain groups in society. However, the social aspect of the game cannot be overlooked and it is this type of play that would be encouraged to facilitate the mental benefits as concluded by the study described above.
In the UK, there are around three million bingo players. It is hoped that this study and the growing body of research around it will help to promote the game to those who otherwise would have written it off as something to be enjoyed with gardening, tea and everything else we assume people over the age of 65 suddenly develop a passion for.