According to a new study, brain training activities are more linked to a placebo effect than an actual boost in intelligence. However, the apps that promise a brain boost are actually useful in staving off mental decline triggered by aging. So the real question is, is brain training a real thing, or is it just a product of hopeful minds?
The placebo effect is usually triggered by a positive state of mind. When people are convinced that their body will react in a certain way, they start showing signs of change. Of course, the amount of change that occurs in such a case is small, the perspective of the patient being the most affected one.
Cyrus Foroughi, a cognitive scientist along with his colleagues from the University of George Mason, conducted a study in order to determine whether or not brain training activities are linked to actual medical results.
In order to confirm their theory that brain boosting is influenced more by a placebo effect than by the actual training, the team divided the sample of volunteers into two groups. The first group was given a set of flyers that informed them that they were about to engage in a study involving cognitive enhancement and brain training.
The second group received a different set of flyers that were vaguely informing the participants that they would be getting credit points in return for their participation in the unnamed study.
After being exposed to the two different kinds of pamphlets, the volunteers had their fluid intelligence tested out. Then they were invited to participate in an hour-long session of cognitive training. The next day, their fluid intelligence was tested again.
Those who were in the first group, the one with the explicit flyers, seemed to have a 10-point increase in their IQ scores. Those who were in the second group scored approximately the same results.
The results of the study suggest that the previous papers that were claiming that brain training exercises are successful were, in fact, deeply influenced by the placebo effect.
The team even researched 19 previous studies on the consequences of brain training and discovered that all of them announced the participants the goal of the survey from their first visit, meaning that they had a high probability of being influenced by the placebo effect.
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