Edev_501 Response wk9_7

Your note about contesting the wisdom of the tribal elder reminded me of Chesterton’s fence: the idea that we shouldn’t try to change a rule without knowing why the rule was put in place in the first place (Kamisar, 2012, p. 966). Notions of wisdom are often tied into concepts of age, experience as well as knowledge (Rowley & Slack, 2014, p. 116).

And your exhortation that “total trust in leaders is not encouraged” found an expression when Dr W recommended us to experiment with puzzles to develop our thinking skills. Do such games actually help us?

A brief survey of the literature reveals a complex situation. IQ comprises fluid and crystallised intelligence (Sternberg, 2008) (where crystallised intelligence (Gc) describes what an individual knows; fluid intelligence (Gf) is used when dealing with novel situations [Cattell & Horn, 1978]). The question of interest to researchers is if individuals’ Gf abilities can be developed through explicitly providing instruction using the working memory. Training on a specific task results in improvements on that task (Jaeggi et al., 2008), but for interest to be sustained, the training needs to show improvements in non-training skills, i.e. there needs to be transferability.

Until recently, the no unambiguous results had been shown (Sternberg, 2008). In 2008 Jaeggi et al. argued for an improvement in Gf after working memory is trained (Jaeggi et al., 2008). Similar results were obtained with on a study with older adults (Stepankova et al., 2014). However, a critical instrument used to test working memory was an n-back test, an instrument that had come under attack as having low convergent validity (Kane et al., 2007).

Jaeggi and her team found that the long-term effects in children aged between 6 and 14 remained after three months which supported the use of cognitive, or “brain”, training (Jaeggi et al., 2011). In this study, Jaeggi reports that those children who found the task difficult performed least well on the N-back tests, leading her to conclude that more research is required into individual differences. A meta-study in 2014 showed a “small but significant positive effect of n-back training on improving Gf” (Au et al., 2014, abstract). Redick analysed five studies of working memory training and found “virtually no evidence” to support the claims made in the source articles (2015, abstract).

If all grandmaster chess players were geniuses in other fields, this debate would not exist. With all due respect to Dr W, there is not sufficient evidence for his claim.

Au, J., Sheehan, E., Tsai, N., Duncan, G. J., Buschkuehl, M., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2014). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory: a meta-analysis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, article in press.

Cattell. R. B., & Horn, J. L. (1978). A check on the theory of fluid and crystallised intelligence with description of new subtest designs. Journal of Educational Measurement, 15(3), 139-164.

Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, 105(19), 6829–6833.

Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides. J., & Shah, P. (2011). Short- and long-term benefits of cognitive training. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, 108(25), 10081-10086.

Kamisar, Y. (2012). The rise, decline and fall (?) of Miranda. Washington Law Review, 87, 965-1040.

Kane, M. J., Conway, A. R. A., Miura, T. K., & Colflesh, G. J. H. (2007). Working memory, attention control, and the N-back task: a question of construct validity. Journal of Experimental Psychology; Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(3), 615-622.

Redick, T. S. (2015). Working memory training and interpreting interactions in intelligence interventions. Intelligence, 50, 14-20.

Rowley, J. & Slack, F. (2014). Conceptions of wisdom. Journal of Information Science, 35(1), 110-119.

Stepankova, H., Lukavsky, J., Buschkuehl, M., Kopecek, M., Ripova, D., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2014). The malleability of working memory and visuospatial skills: A randomised controlled study in older adults. Developmental Psychology, 50(4), 1049-1059.

Sternberg. R. J. (2008). Increasing fluid intelligence is possible after all. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, 105(19), 6791-6792.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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