Effects of working memory and attentional control training and their transfer onto fluid intelligence in early and late adulthood
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The interest in the possibility of improving cognitive functioning through training of basic cognitive processes is growing. This possibility is of particular importance for older adults, whose cognitive functions are weakened, and who may need cognitive rehabilitation. However, improvement of the performance in the tasks being trained is not the only goal of basic cognitive processes training. Far transfer, onto tasks different to the ones trained, and engaging other (usually complex) processes, including fluid intelligence, is an important goal of such training. Yet, meta-analyses suggest that results of studies on the far transfer phenomenon vary, and are not conclusive. One hundred and eighty healthy volunteers took part in this study. They were divided into groups: Experimental 1 (working memory training), Experimental 2 (attentional control training) and Control (non-contact). Each of these groups included participants from the two age subgroups: early and late adulthood. Training involved 7 appointments and lasted for about 4 weeks. Additional measurements, including an assessment of fluid intelligence, were performer on each group at baseline, and at the end of training. Our results suggest that (a) the training of basic cognitive processes in adults leads to an improvement in the correctness, but not the speed, at which tasks are performed, (b) there is a transfer effect onto fluid intelligence, but this effect is weak, and (c) the effects of basic cognitive proces training depend on the kind of trained tasks, age of participants and the interactions between these two factors: working memory training is equally as effective in both age groups, whereas training of attentional control is particularly effective among older individuals, and has limited efficacy for young adults. Finally, one can conclude that the effectiveness of basic cognitive function training is limited. However, it can be significant, even in the aspect of transfer, under conditions related to the type of trained tasks and the age of the participants.
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