executive functions: recent publications

Study: Cognitive Training Works Best When Approached with Positivity

September 8, 2022Preparation and a positive outlook may give people an edge over others who only prepare. According to a recent study published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, individuals given cognitive training who heard about the intervention’s benefits performed better on a working memory task than did those who received cognitive training but were not told how it would improve their performance.

1The study divided 193 participants (73.6% female, 24.8% male, 0.8% nonbinary, and 0.8% unspecified) recruited from three U.S. universities into two groups.

One group was told that cognitive training would improve their task performance, and the other was not. Half of each group completed cognitive training while the rest played a trivia game.All participants given cognitive training performed better on the subsequent working memory task than did participants who played the trivia game instead.

However, individuals who completed cognitive training and heard it would improve their skills performed best on the working memory task.1Positive expectations did not affect all cognitive domains equally. The study found that fluid intelligence, cognitive flexibility, and working memory measures were more susceptible to expectation effects than were spatial cognition and visual selective attention.

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