Study claims brain games don't make you smarter

April, 2010

The recent report splashed all over the press that supposedly found playing online brain games makes you no smarter than surfing the Internet demonstrated no more than we already know: that transfer beyond the specific tasks you practise is very rare, and that well-educated people who are not deprived of mental stimulation and have no health or disability problems are not the people likely to be helped by such games.

A six-week study got a lot of press last month. The study involved some 11,000 viewers of the BBC's science show "Bang Goes the Theory", and supposedly showed that playing online brain games makes you no smarter than surfing the Internet to answer general knowledge questions. In fact, the main problem was the media coverage. The researchers acknowledged that previous research has found some types of individuals benefit from such games (older adults, preschool children, and I would add, children with some learning disabilities such as ADHD), and that video gamers show improved skills in some areas. What they found was that, across this general, mostly well-educated group, the amount of training on these tasks didn't improve performance beyond those specific tasks. This is neither a surprise, nor news. I'll talk more about this in the newsletter coming out early next month.

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