Advertisement

Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 617–633 | Cite as

What’s Working in Working Memory Training? An Educational Perspective

  • Thomas S. RedickEmail author
  • Zach Shipstead
  • Elizabeth A. Wiemers
  • Monica Melby-Lervåg
  • Charles Hulme
Review Article

Abstract

Working memory training programs have generated great interest, with claims that the training interventions can have profound beneficial effects on children’s academic and intellectual attainment. We describe the criteria by which to evaluate evidence for or against the benefit of working memory training. Despite the promising results of initial research studies, the current review of all of the available evidence of working memory training efficacy is less optimistic. Our conclusion is that working memory training produces limited benefits in terms of specific gains on short-term and working memory tasks that are very similar to the training programs, but no advantage for academic and achievement-based reading and arithmetic outcomes.

Keywords

Working memory Training Academic attainment Intervention 

Notes

References

  1. Alderson, R. M., Rapport, M. D., Hudec, K. L., Sarver, D. E., & Kofler, M. J. (2010). Competing core processes in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): do working memory deficiencies underlie behavioral inhibition deficits? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 497–507. doi: 10.1007/s10802-010-9387-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alloway, T. (2012). Can interactive working memory training improve learning? Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 23(3), 197–207. ISSN 1093-023X.Google Scholar
  3. Alloway, T. P., & Alloway, R. G. (2010). Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 106, 20–29. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2009.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alloway, T. P., & Alloway, R. G. (2013). The working memory advantage: train your brain to function stronger, smarter, faster. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  5. Alloway, T. P., Bibile, V., & Lau, G. (2013). Computerized working memory training: can it lead to gains in cognitive skills in students? Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 632–638. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.10.023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ang, S. Y., Lee, K., Cheam, F., Poon, K., & Koh, J. (2015). Updating and working memory training: immediate improvement, long-term maintenance, and generalisability to non-trained tasks. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2015.03.001.Google Scholar
  7. Aries, R. J., Groot, W., & Van den Brink, H. M. (2014). Improving reasoning skills in secondary history education by working memory training. British Educational Research Journal, 41, 210–228. doi: 10.1002/berj.3142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baddeley, A. (2012). Working memory: theories, models, and controversies. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 1–29. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bergman-Nutley, S., & Klingberg, T. (2014). Effect of working memory training on working memory, arithmetic and following instructions. Psychological Research, 78(6), 869–877. doi: 10.1007/s00426-014-0614-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boot, W. R., Simons, D. J., Stothart, C., & Stutts, C. (2013). The pervasive problem with placebos in psychology: why active control groups are not sufficient to rule out placebo effects. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 445–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buschkuehl, M., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2010). Improving intelligence: a literature review. Swiss Medical Weekly, 140, 266–272.Google Scholar
  12. Button, K. S., Ioannidis, J. P. A., Mokrysz, C., Nosek, B. A., Flint, J., Robinson, E. S. J., & Munafò, M. R. (2013). Power failure: why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14, 365–376. doi: 10.1038/nrn3475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chacko, A., Feirsen, N., Bedard, A.-C., Marks, D., Uderman, J. Z., & Chimiklis, A. (2013). Cogmed working memory training for youth with ADHD: a closer examination of efficacy utilizing evidence-based criteria. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 42, 769–783. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2013.787622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chacko, A., Bedard, A. C., Marks, D. J., Feirsen, N., Uderman, J. Z., Chimiklis, A., & Ramon, M. (2014). A randomized clinical trial of Cogmed working memory training in school‐age children with ADHD: a replication in a diverse sample using a control condition. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(3), 247–255. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarke, P. J., Snowling, M., Truelove, E., & Hulme, C. (2010). Ameliorating children’s reading comprehension difficulties: a randomized controlled trial. Psychological Science, 21, 1106–1116. doi: 10.1177/0956797610375449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Conway, A. R. A., Jarrold, C., Kane, M. J., Miyake, A., & Towse, J. N. (2007). Variation in working memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dahlin, K. E. (2011). Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs. Reading and Writing, 24(4), 479–491. doi: 10.1007/s11145-010-9238-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dahlin, K. E. (2013). Working memory training and the effect on mathematical achievement in children with attention deficits and special needs. Journal of Education and Learning, 2(1), 118–133. doi: 10.5539/jel.v2n1p118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science, 333(6045), 959–964. doi: 10.1126/science.1204529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dunning, D. L., Holmes, J., & Gathercole, S. E. (2013). Does working memory training lead to generalized improvements in children with low working memory? A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Science, 16(6), 915–925. doi: 10.1111/desc.12068.Google Scholar
  21. Egeland, J., Aarlien, A. K., & Saunes, B. (2013). Few effects of far transfer of working memory training in ADHD: a randomized controlled trial. Plos One, 8(10). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075660.
  22. Ericsson, K. A., Chase, W. G., & Faloon, S. (1980). Acquisition of a memory skill. Science, 208(4448), 1181–1182. doi: 10.1126/science.7375930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Foy, J. G., & Mann, V. A. (2014). Adaptive cognitive training enhances executive control and visuospatial and verbal working memory in beginning readers. International Education Research, 2, 19–43. doi: 10.12735/ier.v2i2p19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Friedman, N. P., Miyake, A., Young, S. E., DeFries, J. C., Corley, R. P., & Hewitt, J. K. (2008). Individual differences in executive functions are almost entirely genetic in origin. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 137(2), 201–225. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.137.2.201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goldin, A. P., Segretin, M. S., Herminda, M. J., Paz, L., Lipina, S. J., & Sigman, M. (2013). Training planning and working memory in third graders. Mind, Brain and Education, 7(2), 136–146. doi: 10.1111/mbe.12019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gray, S. A., Chaban, P., Martinussen, R., Goldberg, R., Gotlieb, K. R., Hockenberry, M., & Tannock, R. (2012). Effects of a computerized working memory training program on working memory, attention, and academics in adolescents with severe LD and comorbid ADHD: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(12), 1277–1284. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02592.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Henry, L. A., Messer, D. J., & Nash, G. (2013). Testing for near and far transfer effects with a short, face‐to‐face adaptive working memory training intervention in typical children. Infant and Child Development, 23(1), 84–103. doi: 10.1002/icd.1816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holmes, J., & Gathercole, S. E. (2014). Taking working memory training from the laboratory into schools. Educational Psychology, 34(4), 440–450. doi: 10.1080/01443410.2013.797338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Holmes, J., Gathercole, S. E., & Dunning, D. L. (2009). Adaptive training leads to sustained enhancement of poor working memory in children. Developmental Science, 12(4), F9–F15. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00848.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Horvat, M. (2014). Vpliv treninga delovnega spomina na kognitivne sposobnosti (The effect of working memory training on cognitive abilities). Master’s thesis, University of Maribor.Google Scholar
  31. Hovik, K. T., Saunes, B., Aarlien, A. K., & Egeland, J. (2013). RCT of working memory training in ADHD: long-term near-transfer effects. Plos ONE, 8(12). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080561.
  32. Hulme, C., & Snowling, M. (2009). Developmental cognitive disorders. Oxford: Blackwell/Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Hurley, D. (2012). Can you make yourself smarter?, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/can-you-make-yourself-smarter.html.
  34. Jacob, R., & Parkinson, J. (2015). The potential for school-based interventions that target executive function to improve academic achievement: a review. Review of Educational Research.Google Scholar
  35. Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Shah, P. (2011). Short and long-term benefits of cognitive training. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108, 10081–10086. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103228108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Shah, P., & Jonides, J. (2014). The role of individual differences in cognitive training and transfer. Memory & Cognition, 42(3), 464–480. doi: 10.3758/s13421-013-0364-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Karbach, J., Strobach, T., & Schubert, T. (2015). Adaptive working-memory training benefits reading, but not mathematics in middle childhood. Child Neuropsychology. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2014.899336.Google Scholar
  38. Klingberg, T. (2010). Training and plasticity of working memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(7), 317–324. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.05.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Klingberg, T., Fernell, E., Olesen, P. J., Johnson, M., Gustafsson, P., Dahlström, K., & Westerberg, H. (2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD: a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 177–186. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200502000-00010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kroesbergen, E. H., van ’t Noordende, J. E., & Kolkman, M. E. (2014). Training working memory in kindergarten children: effects on working memory and early numeracy. Child Neuropsychology, 20(1), 23–37. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2012.736483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Loosli, S., Buschkuehl, M., Perrig, W., & Jaeggi, S. (2011). Working memory training improves reading processes in typically developing children. Child Neuropsychology, 18, 62–78. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2011.575772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mansur-Alves, M., Flores-Mendoza, C., & Tierra-Criollo, C. J. (2012). Preliminary evidence of effectiveness in cognitive training to improve school children intelligence. Psicologica Reflexão e Crítica, 26, 423–434. doi: 10.1590/S0102-79722013000300001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Martinussen, R., Hayden, J., Hogg-Johnson, S., & Tannock, R. (2005). A meta-analysis of working memory impairments in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(4), 377–384. doi: 10.1097/01.chi.0000153228.72591.73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Melby-Lervåg, M., & Hulme, C. (2013). Is working memory training effective? A meta-analytic review. Developmental Psychology, 49, 270–291. doi: 10.1037/a0028228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pugin, F., Metz, A. J., Stauffer, M., Wolf, M., Jenni, O. G., Huber, R. (2014). Working memory training shows immediate and long-term effects on cognitive performance in children and adolescents. Version 1. F1000Res, 3, 82. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.3665.1.
  46. Rabiner, D. L., Murray, D. W., Skinner, A. T., & Malone, P. S. (2010). A randomized trial of two promising computer-based interventions for students with attention difficulties. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 131–142. doi: 10.1007/s10802- 009-9353-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rapport, M. D., Orban, S. A., Kofler, M. J., & Friedman, L. M. (2013). Do programs designed to train working memory, other executive functions, and attention benefit children with ADHD? A meta-analytic review of cognitive, academic, and behavioral outcomes. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(8), 1237–1252. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.08.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Redick, T. S. (2015). Working memory training and interpreting interactions in intelligence interventions. Intelligence, 50, 14–20. doi: 10.1016/j.intell.2015.01.014.
  49. Redick, T. S., & Lindsey, D. R. B. (2013). Complex span and n-back measures of working memory: a meta-analysis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20, 1102–1113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Redick, T. S., Heitz, R. P., & Engle, R. W. (2007). Working memory capacity and inhibition: cognitive and social consequences. In D. S. Gorfein & C. M. MacLeod (Eds.), Inhibition in cognition (pp. 125–142). Washington: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Redick, T. S., Shipstead, Z., Harrison, T. L., Hicks, K. L., Fried, D. E., Hambrick, D. Z., Kane, M. J., & Engle, R. W. (2013). No evidence of intelligence improvement after working memory training: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142, 359–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rode, C., Robson, R., Purviance, A., Geary, D. C., & Mayr, U. (2014). Is working memory training effective? A study in a school setting. PLoS ONE, 9(8), e104796. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Roughan, L., & Hadwin, J. A. (2011). The impact of working memory training in young people with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 759–764. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2011.07.011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shavelson, R. J., Yuan, K., Alonzo, A. C., Klingberg, T., & Andersson, M. (2008). On the impact of computerized cognitive training on working memory and fluid intelligence. In D. C. Berliner & H. Kuppermintz (Eds.), Contributions of educational psychology to changing institutions, environments, and people (pp. 1–11). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Shipstead, Z., Redick, T. S., & Engle, R. W. (2010). Does working memory training generalize? Psychologica Belgica, 50, 245–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shipstead, Z., Hicks, K. L., & Engle, R. W. (2012a). Cogmed working memory training: does the evidence support the claims? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 185–193. doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2012.06.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shipstead, Z., Redick, T. S., & Engle, R. W. (2012b). Is working memory training effective? Psychological Bulletin, 138, 628–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Simmons, J. P., Nelson, L. D., & Simonsohn, U. (2011). False-positive psychology: undisclosed flexibility in data collection and analysis allows presenting anything as significant. Psychological Science, 22, 1359–1366. doi: 10.1177/0956797611417632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Soderqvist, S., Nutley, S. B, Ottersen, J., Grill, K. M., & Klingberg, T. (2012). Computerized training of non-verbal reasoning and working memory in children with intellectual disability. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00271.
  60. St Clair-Thompson, H., Stevens, R., Hunt, A., & Bolder, E. (2010). Improving children’s working memory and classroom performance. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 30(2), 203–219. doi: 10.1080/01443410903509259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Swanson, H. L., & Jerman, O. (2006). Math disabilities: a selective meta-analysis of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 76, 249–274. doi: 10.3102/00346543076002249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Swanson, H. L., Zheng, X. H., & Jerman, O. (2009). Working memory, short-term memory, and reading disabilities: a selective meta-analysis of the literature. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 260–287. doi: 10.1177/0022219409331958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thorell, L. B., Lindqvist, S., Nutley, S. B., Bohlin, G., & Klingberg, T. (2009). Training and transfer effects of executive functions in preschool children. Developmental Science, 12(1), 106–113. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00745.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Turner, M. L., & Engle, R. W. (1989). Is working memory capacity task dependent? Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 127–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Van der Molen, M. J., Van Luit, J. E. H., van der Molen, M. W., Klugkist, I., & Jongmans, M. J. (2010). Effectiveness of a computerised working memory training in adolescents with mild to borderline intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 54(5), 433–447. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01285.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Walberg, H. J., & Tsai, S. (1983). Matthew effects in education. American Educational Research Journal, 20, 359–373. doi: 10.2307/1162605.Google Scholar
  67. Wang, Z., Zhou, R., & Shah, P. (2014). Spaced cognitive training promotes training transfer. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. doi:  10.3389/fnhum.2014.00217.
  68. Witt, M. (2011). School based working memory training: preliminary finding of improvement in children’s mathematical performance. Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 7, 7–15. doi: 10.2478/v10053-008-0083-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zhao, X., Wang, Y., Liu, D., & Zhou, R. (2011). Effect of updating training on fluid intelligence in children. Chinese Science Bulletin, 56, 2202–2205. doi: 10.1007/s11434-011-4553-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas S. Redick
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zach Shipstead
    • 2
  • Elizabeth A. Wiemers
    • 1
  • Monica Melby-Lervåg
    • 3
  • Charles Hulme
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Division of Social & Behavioral SciencesArizona State UniversityGlendaleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Special Needs EducationUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  4. 4.Division of Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations