Can you train your way to a smarter brain?

Experts such as chess masters and professional musicians possess superior cognitive ability compared to the general population. As such, some researchers have proposed that playing chess or learning music is an effective way to get smarter and improve academic achievement. The same type of claim has been made for working memory (WM) training, that is, a kind of brain-training with memory tasks. However, contrary to common belief, we found that none of these activities are effective. For this project, we used meta-analysis – a statistical method to merge results from different studies into one effect indicating the effect of an intervention. A meta-analysis is much more reliable than a single study as it includes many more participants and allows us to verify whether positive findings have been replicated. The most important consequence of our results is that people should not expect any benefits from these activities, except getting better at playing chess, music, and performing WM tasks.

The failure of music training:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616301635

The failure of working memory training:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28165253

Memory for the meaningless:
https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13421-016-0663-2

Chess and intelligence. Part 1:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616301593

Chess and intelligence. Part 2:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616301635

A contribution by Giovanni Sala and Fernand Gobet, University of Liverpool, for PsychLiverpool.

Giovanni Sala is PhD candidate at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Psychological Sciences. His main research interests are the cognitive correlates of expert performance and the presumed benefits of cognitive training.

Fernand Gobet is Professor of Expertise and Decision Making at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Psychological Sciences. He is a cognitive scientist interested in learning, language acquisition, and expertise.

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