Do Brain Training Programs Improve Cognitive Abilities? - Psychology - Research Paper

1627 words - 7 pages

Do Brain Training Programs Improve Cognitive Abilities?
An T. Nguyen
University of California, Los Angeles
Do Brain Training Programs Improve Cognitive Abilities?
The recent proliferation of brain training games, which are highly advertised to increase
IQ points and many other cognitive abilities, results from people’s increasing desire to become
smarter. The question of whether brain training games can help people enhance their cognitive
skills has been a matter of debate in the scientific field. While some believe that they can
maximize the potential of the brain because of brain malleability, the idea that our intelligence
can be augmented throughout our life, others claim that they might not provide us with skills in
real-life situations. Still, many experts and scientists have been gradually critical of the
effectiveness of brain training programs. Indeed, brain training, a multibillion-dollar industry
designed to improve human cognition using computerized tests, has been largely under attack for
it dubious efficacy, specifically with a $2 million dollar settlement by Lumosity, a leading
company in this field, to settle charges over its deceptive advertising (Howard, 2016). In 2014, a
group of 75 experts and scientists from Stanford University and other universities around the
world issued a consensus statement demonstrating their skepticism of the real impact of brain
training products on improving wide-ranging cognitive abilities (Parker, 2014). They believed
that brain games could improve cognitive performances on specific tasks but not on more
complex ones which demand a lot of problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Independent
studies on brain training programs in recent years have consistently demonstrated that they not
only do not significantly contribute to cognitive enhancements, but also there are potential
shortcomings behind many studies in favor of brain training games.
There has been a growing body of evidence emphasizing that the supposedly IQ
improvement in brain training interventions might be due to the role of placebo effect, a potential
confounding variable that has not been well accounted for. Boot, Simons, Stothart, & Stutts
(2013) identified that there might be a self-selection bias in the recruitment in a majority of
cognitive training studies, in which participants who have strong expectations in the
effectiveness of brain training programs are overrepresented. The possibility of placebo effect in
cognitive training programs was thoroughly examined by a recent study in the journal
“Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, in which researchers put two different sets
of flyers on George Mason University campus to recruit students to join it. (Foroughi, Monfort,
Paczynski, McKnight, & Greenwood, 2016). ...

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