The role of individual differences in cognitive training and transfer
Working memory (WM) training has recently become a topic of intense interest and controversy. Although several recent studies have reported near- and far-transfer effects as a result of training WM-related skills, others have failed to show far transfer, suggesting that generalization effects are elusive. Also, many of the earlier intervention attempts have been criticized on methodological grounds. The present study resolves some of the methodological limitations of previous studies and also considers individual differences as potential explanations for the differing transfer effects across studies. We recruited intrinsically motivated participants and assessed their need for cognition (NFC; Cacioppo & Petty Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42:116–131, 1982) and their implicit theories of intelligence (Dweck, 1999) prior to training. We assessed the efficacy of two WM interventions by comparing participants’ improvements on a battery of fluid intelligence tests against those of an active control group. We observed that transfer to a composite measure of fluid reasoning resulted from both WM interventions. In addition, we uncovered factors that contributed to training success, including motivation, need for cognition, preexisting ability, and implicit theories about intelligence.