Educational Testing and Psychotherapy
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Working Memory Exercises: Effective or Bunk?

When I provide feedback to clients that their working memory ability is weak they often ask what can be done about this. They want to know if there are ways to improve their working memory. Unfortunately, to date, there is no clear way to do this. Several companies have created and marketed computer-based programs which purportedly increase working memory ability through the use of daily exercises. Recently a team of researchers has taken an in-depth look at whether these programs are truly effective. As reported in the October 2012 edition of CHADD’s magazine: Attention, there is no clear benefit from these programs. Quoting from this article, “….several working memory ‘training programs’ have been developed and marketed. Unfortunately these programs don’t work very well (if at all). At this year’s American Psychological Association conference, Rapport and Kofler presented a meta-analytic review of twenty-three studies that found overall small or no benefits of these training programs for reducing inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsive behavior for children with ADHD. One reason for this disappointing conclusion is that most of these programs target the wrong parts of working memory: They’re training the short-term memory part, rather than the ‘working’ part of working memory.

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