Working memory, often likened to the ‘conductor’ of our brain, plays a pivotal role in processing and retaining information over short periods. With numerous tools available for its enhancement, like the Cogmed, the touted benefits are noteworthy. However, a recent study paints a different picture. Dive into this article to explore a critical perspective on working memory training.Read more: Deconstructing the Effects of Working Memory Training
The Role and Importance of Working Memory
Being an integral part of the executive system, the primary task of working memory is to hold and process information for a brief span. Research indicates an apparent connection between diminished working memory function and challenges like depression, anxiety, and difficulty in learning and retention.
Challenging the Established Norms
Sabine Wanmakers, a renowned psychologist, set out to investigate the potential of enhancing working memory. The objective was to observe if doing so could lead to a reduction in symptoms like depression, anxiety, and difficulty in learning and retaining information among university students. Contrary to the popular belief, her findings revealed that working memory training showed no significant effect in reducing depressive symptoms or constant rumination. This finding also held true for substance abusers; the training did not lead to a decrease in substance use, cravings, or impulsiveness.
Moreover, she found no discernible effects in academic performance, handling negative experiences, attention control, stress, impulsivity, and the occurrence of negative thoughts in healthy students. Her results resonate with critical reviews and empirical studies that challenge the purported benefits of working memory training.
Limitations and Counter-Arguments
Despite these eye-opening results, it’s crucial to note the limitations of Wanmakers’ study, including a high dropout rate and short training duration. Furthermore, the severity of the symptoms in the participants was considerably high compared to the general population.
Many proponents of working memory training argue that adequate guidance during the training phase is paramount. They often highlight, “Working memory training isn’t a pill you take and wait for effects.”
The Verdict: Is it Effective?
If Wanmakers’ study is any indicator, working memory training might not have the transformative effects it promises. This stance contrasts with findings from researchers like Klingberg, who have witnessed positive outcomes from such training. When it comes to athletes, the comparison becomes more challenging since the goal of working memory training varies significantly. The training should offer added value that assists during competitions and practice sessions.
Moreover, the BBC conducted a mini-study on the effects of general brain training, which wasn’t sports-specific: