Important questions for future research
A central message of the present chapter is that transfer-of-learning effects are highly selective and limited in magnitude. At the same time, it is important to stress that reliable and reproducible transfer can be demonstrated, as in the original study by Dahlin et al. (2008a) and in the independent replication by Backman et al. (2011). Thus, for the future, an important task will be to determine what training conditions lead to best transfer effects (Jaeggi et al., 2011).
Relatedly, the transfer to everyday activities requires further examination. Based on the experimental findings, broad transfer seems unlikely (cf. Ball et al., 2002), indicating that analyses of key component processes underlying the targeted everyday behavior is vital for setting up an optimal training program.
The durability of training effects is a key issue that warrants further examination (Dahlin et al., 2008a; also Dahlin et al., 2009). As for physical activities, there are reasons to believe that cognitive training needs to be maintained. At the same time, some long-lasting effects have been reported (Dahlin et al., 2008a).The determining factor may be the length of the initial training program, as longer programs are more likely to establish new cognitive skills of substantial durability. In conclusion, the present review indicates that cognitive training in general and working-memory training in particular cannot be expected to have very broad and general effects. At the same time, by now it seems firmly established that training of working memory is possible, and that some such effects do transfer. Therefore, although caution is warranted in view of commercial claims of training being a “low-hanging fruit” (cf. Owen et al., 2010), we are optimistic about future intervention studies.
* This chapter originally appeared in the edited volume, Working Memory and Ageing.
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MORE THAN JUST A MEMORY