Throw Away the Brain Train Games! They're No Good for Real Intelligence

My husband's a great one for looking for things that train your brain.  All well and good.  But a new study has found that while these apps and games and Web sites do help you hold information in your mind, they don't do anything for the real intelligence you're probably looking for -- the kind that helps you solve problems, and reason.

According to newswise.com, "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.”

Engle says 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, newswise.com reports, but “this assumes that the two constructs are the same thing, or that WMC is the basis for fluid intelligence,” Engle notes.

Researchers brought together two groups of students to test this out.  "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," newswise.com recounts.

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.

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.

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