People who play bingo 'do better in mental tests'

Julie Wheldon
Friday 12 July 2002 00:00

Bingo requires core mental abilities and playing it helps use parts of the brain which often decline with ageing, a psychologist said yesterday.

Julie Winstone, a cognitive psychologist, discovered that bingo players, whether young or old, were faster and more accurate than non-bingo players in many of the tests she performed. And in certain tasks, older bingo players significantly outperformed young players.

She said bingo, which is played regularly by three million people in the UK, did not deserve its often negative image.

Ageing is known to affect many mental abilities, including speed, concentration, accuracy and pattern recognition, but Miss Winstone found that bingo required all those skills.

"Bingo does use some core mental functions," she said. "It often suffers from a negative stereotype that it is just luck and is not skilled, but this shows it is a valuable activity.

"I am not trying to say bingo is better than anything else but it doesn't deserve the negative stereotype it has."

Miss Winstone, who is a final year PhD student at the University of Southampton, tested 112 women aged 18-40 and 60-82.

She compared those who played bingo at her local club, typically with six cards at a time, with non-players. The tests measured speed, the ability to scan the environment for information and memory for previously-seen items.

Miss Winstone said the controlled nature of the game made it more similar to a laboratory setting than many other mental activities, such as completing crosswords.

The game's tension, excitement and social aspect could all be beneficial to mental functions, she added.

She disclosed her findings in Winchester at an annual conference of psychologists with a special interest in older people. She said she was only at the beginning of her research and intended to carry out further investigations into the game of bingo.

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