Limitations and chances of working memory training

Abstract

Recent studies show controversial results on the trainability of working memory (WM) capacity being a limiting factor of human cognition. In order to contribute to this open question we investigated if participants improve in trained tasks and whether gains generalize to untrained WM tasks, mathematical problem solving and intelligence tests. 83 adults trained over a three week period (7.5 hours total) in one of the following conditions: A high, a medium or a low WM load group. The present findings show that task specific characteristics could be learned but that there was no transfer between trained and untrained tasks which had no common elements. Positive transfer occurred between two tasks focusing on inhibitory processes. It might be possible to enhance this specific component of WM but not WM capacity as such. A possible enhancement in a learning test is of high educational interest and worthwhile to be investigated further.


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