Saturday, April 6, 2013

Playing "Educational' Video Games Does Not Increase Intelligence; It Only Makes You A Better Game-Player

Mind Games

An article, by Gareth Cook, in The New Yorker scrutinizes the claims of educational companies that link  the playing computer or video games to improving memory (or so-called brain training); the idea that one can improve over-all intelligence by playing video-games holds a lot of appeal for parents, in particular, for parents of school-age children with learning disabilities.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that educational companies are cashing in on parents looking for a "scientific" quick fix to improve their children's ability to retain information,  and thus do well in the classroom. Such claims, however, are suspect according to the latest peer-reviewed scientific findings.

Cook writes:
Brain training has become a multi-million-dollar business, with companies like Lumosity, Jungle Memory, and CogniFit offering their own versions of neuroscience-you-can-use, and providing ambitious parents with new assignments for overworked but otherwise healthy children. The brain-training concept has made Klingberg a star, and he now enjoys a seat on an assembly that helps select the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The field has become a staple of popular writing. Last year, the New York Times Magazine published a glowing profile of the young guns of brain training called “CAN YOU MAKE YOURSELF SMARTER?
The answer, however, now appears to be a pretty firm no—at least, not through brain training. A pair of scientists in Europe recently gathered all of the best research—twenty-three investigations of memory training by teams around the world—and employed a standard statistical technique (called meta-analysis) to settle this controversial issue. The conclusion: the games may yield improvements in the narrow task being trained, but this does not transfer to broader skills like the ability to read or do arithmetic, or to other measures of intelligence. Playing the games makes you better at the games, in other words, but not at anything anyone might care about in real life.
One can ask whether there is any harm to purchasing these games. The short answer is yes, in that such educational games come with an implicit expectation that is unmet. Parents purchase these products with the expectation that their child will do better in school in all subjects, chiefly due to the company's truth claims that memory will improve, and thus will the whole complicated process of learning and retaining new information and knowledge.

Memory is one of the steps involved in learning, since retention of information is critical to understanding and processing. Memory thus becomes an important and critical factor in how well a child does in tests; Better memory, better test scores. In effect, with the purchase of such educational games, the parents are buying hope and faith and little more.


You can read the rest of the article at [NewYorker]