Much has been said lately about memory training exercises and their impact on performance at work and home. But a recent study suggests that the benefits may be overstated.

At issue is what’s known as dual nback training. That’s a testing process where you have to remember something a few intervals back.

For example, subjects might be told a list of three grocery items: a loaf of bread, a quart of milk, and a stick of butter. Then they try to remember what
was two items back on the list.

You can find n-back exercises on Luminosity and AARP games. They’re also used by private training firms.

Georgia Tech researchers found, after a meta-analysis of existing studies and their own testing, that dual n-back memory training doesn’t improve intelligence or working memory.

However, the study did document a placebo effect: People thought the technique improved their memory, even though it didn’t.

Source: Redick, T.S., et al. (2013). No evidence of intelligence improvement after working memory training: A randomized, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 142, no. 2, 359-379.

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