Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Brain training' may boost working memory, but not intelligence

08.10.2013
Brain training games, apps, and websites are popular and it's not hard to see why — who wouldn't want to give their mental abilities a boost?

New research suggests that brain training programs might strengthen your ability to hold information in mind, but they won't bring any benefits to the kind of intelligence that helps you reason and solve problems.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"It is hard to spend any time on the web and not see an ad for a website that promises to train your brain, fix your attention, and increase your IQ," says psychological scientist and lead researcher Randall Engle of Georgia Institute of Technology. "These claims are particularly attractive to parents of children who are struggling in school."

According to Engle, the claims are based on evidence that shows a strong correlation between working memory capacity (WMC) and general fluid intelligence. Working memory capacity refers to our ability to keep information either in mind or quickly retrievable, particularly in the presence of distraction. General fluid intelligence is the ability to infer relationships, do complex reasoning, and solve novel problems.

The correlation between WMC and fluid intelligence has led some to surmise that increasing WMC should lead to an increase in both fluid intelligence, but "this assumes that the two constructs are the same thing, or that WMC is the basis for fluid intelligence," Engle notes.

To better understand the relationship between these two aspects of cognition, Engle and colleagues had 55 undergraduate students complete 20 days of training on certain cognitive tasks. The students were paid extra for improving their performance each day to ensure that they were engaged in the training. Students in the two experimental conditions trained on either complex span tasks, which have been consistently shown to be good measures of WMC, or simple span tasks. With the simple span tasks, the students were asked to recall items in the order they were presented; for complex span tasks, the students had to remember items while performing another task in between item presentations. A control group trained on a visual search task that, like the other tasks, became progressively harder each day.

The researchers administered a battery of tests before and after training to gauge improvement and transfer of learning, including a variety of WMC measures and three measures of fluid intelligence.

The results were clear: Only students who trained on complex span tasks showed transfer to other WMC tasks. None of the groups showed any training benefit on measures of fluid intelligence.

"For over 100 years, psychologists have argued that general memory ability cannot be improved, that there is little or no generalization of 'trained' tasks to 'untrained' tasks," says Tyler Harrison, graduate student and lead author of the paper. "So we were surprised to see evidence that new and untrained measures of working memory capacity may be improved with training on complex span tasks."

The results suggest that the students improved in their ability to update and maintain information on multiple tasks as they switched between them, which could have important implications for real-world multitasking:

"This work affects nearly everyone living in the complex modern world," says Harrison, "but it particularly affects individuals that find themselves trying to do multiple tasks or rapidly switching between complex tasks, such as driving and talking on a cell phone, alternating between conversations with two different people, or cooking dinner and dealing with a crying child."

Despite the potential boost for multitasking, the benefits of training didn't transfer to fluid intelligence. Engle points out that just because WMC and fluid intelligence are highly correlated doesn't mean that they are the same:

"Height and weight in human beings are also strongly correlated but few reasonable people would assume that height and weight are the same variable," explains Engle. "If they were, gaining weight would make you taller and losing weight would make you shorter — those of us who gain and lose weight periodically can attest to the fact that that is not true."

The researchers plan to continue this research to better understand how training specific aspects of cognition can lead to positive transfer to other tasks, both in the lab and in the real world.

For more information about this study, please contact: Randall W. Engle at randall.engle@gatech.edu.

In addition to Engle, co-authors include Tyler L. Harrison and Kenny L. Hicks of Georgia Institute of Technology, Zach Shipstead of Arizona State University, David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State University, and Thomas S. Redick of Purdue University.

This research was supported by the Office of Naval Research Grant N000140910129.

The article abstract can be found online: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/03/0956797613492984.abstract

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "'Brain Training' May Boost Working Memory, But Not Intelligence" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org

Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision

06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>