Jan 16, 2009, 7:14:50 PM1/16/09
to Dual N-Back, Brain Training & Intelligence
I emailed Dr. Jaeggi a couple of weeks ago when we were discussing the
issue of feedback and strategies, and she kindly responded at length
and said I could share her responses here in case they're helpful to
others. Here are my questions and her responses:
> ... some have argued that immediate feedback after every guess is necessary for reinforcement, while others disagree.
the gaming literature also disagrees on this issue - there are
different ways to think about this: whereas feedback after each trial
gives you immediate feedback whether you did right or wrong, it can
also be distracting as you are constantly monitoring (and evaluating)
your performance. we decided that we wanted people to fully and
maximally concentrate on the task itself and thus chose the approach
to only give feedback at the end of the run.
however, we have newer versions of the task for kids in which we give
some sort of feedback (points) for each trial.
thus - i can't tell you what the optimal way is - i guess there are
interindividual differences and preferences as well.
> Secondly, somebody quoted you saying that the greatest benefit in the original study came to those who didn't use any conscious strategies (such as mentally traversing the last n positions and repeating the last n syllables), and many have tried to use what they are calling an "intuitive" method (meaning no conscious strategies). But there is much confusion about just what such an "intuitive" method should be, and some have had no success when not using strategies and have gotten frustrated. Do you have any advice on what specifically you recommend in terms of how to improve most effectively?
this is a question i am being asked a lot and unfortunately, i don't
really know whether i can help with that. i can only tell you what we
tell (or rather not tell) our participants and what they tell us.
so, first of all, we don't tell people at all what strategy to use -
it is up to them. thing is, there are some people that tell us what
you describe above, i.e. some of them tell us that it works best if
they don't use a strategy at all and just "let the squares/letters
flow by". but of course, many participants also use more conscious
strategies like rehearsing or grouping items together.
but again - we let people chose their strategies themselves!
maybe the confusion came about since we developed the dual n-back with
the goal in mind to have a task in which the development of task-
specific strategies is very difficult (what we also pointed out in our
article). task specific strategies meaning something like mnemonic
tricks or shortcuts that people use in order to memorize a huge amount
of information (for example at memory championships where people
remember 1000ens of digits or cards). it is such mnemonic strategies
that we don't like people to use since that way, people don't train
their basic (and dynamic) information processing system (or working
memory) anymore, but some static skill which is strongly related to
the specific task that is being trained. thus, you might get
incredibly good in the particular task that you trained, but nowhere
else.... however, the goal of our training is not getting better in
the particular dual n-back task itself so much, but getting better in
other tasks that depend on the processes that are trained with the
dual n-back (such as reading comprehension, general memory
performance, problem solving, etc.).