Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summary of Findings (White Team): Meditation (3 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 8 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in May 2013 regarding Meditation specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Meditation is an analytic modifier that allows for the training of the mind by promoting relaxation. The outcome of this practice may lead to improving health issues including high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. There are a wide variety of different meditation techniques; examples include basic meditation, focused meditation, activity-oriented meditation, mindfulness meditation and spiritual meditation. These activities are intended to reduce stress, improve multitasking, processing speed, attention span, coordination, and cognitive flexibility.

1. Some studies show that it has potential to decrease stress, improve mood, and improve health.
2. Improves the practitioner’s ability to control his or her own thoughts.
3. Studies have demonstrated meditation’s potential to improve multitasking, processing speed, attention span, coordination, and cognitive flexibility.

1. May initially cause more stress.
2. May need long-term training to see significant results.
3. Meditation is relatively non conventional and therefore requires an open mind.
4. Individual needs to practice meditation on a daily basis to maintains results.

Step by Step Action:
1. Choose a type of meditation which you find to be best for you. These can include basic, mindfulness, or spiritual meditation. The following link lists additional types of meditation and their descriptions:
2. Set aside 15 minutes each day to conduct this exercise.
3. If you are trying basic meditation, follow the subsequent steps:
- Sit in a comfortable position and quiet your mind.
- Notice the thoughts in your mind, but do not engage them. When thoughts materialize, just let them go.
4. Continue practicing each day and with time, it will become more natural and less difficult.

Before coming into class we were told to set aside 15 minutes to engage in one of five meditation techniques. These five meditation techniques included: basic meditation, focused meditation, activity-oriented meditation, mindfulness technique, and spiritual meditation. Each participant reflected on how they felt before and after conducting the 15 minute meditation session. The most popular meditation technique that was chosen in the class was basic meditation technique, with focused meditation technique as another popular choice. One problem that was noticed that many participants prior to conducting their meditation were significantly stressed out before and had a difficult time at first getting stressors out of their minds. However, the longer each participant practiced the technique the easier it was to clear ones minds of what was stressing them out.

As a class we discussed the usefulness of meditation and its utility to be instituted in the intelligence community. Through the class discussions it was discussed that meditation was useful in improving multitasking, improved processing speed and cognitive flexibility. Overall, it was noted that meditation techniques would be useful to institute within the intelligence community, but the ways in which to best institute them still needs to be clarified. There are multiple meditation techniques that have demonstrated the ability to be beneficial for the participant, but there is not just one definitive meditation technique that is proven to demonstrate the most positive results. If implemented into the intelligence community it would be necessary to expose individuals to a variety of different meditation techniques to find which one would work the most effectively for them.

Summary of Findings (Green Team): Meditation (2 out of 5 Stars)

Green Team
Rating (2 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 8 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in May 2013 regarding Meditation specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Meditation is an analytic modifier that involves the attempted regulation of one’s brain processes and thoughts. There are multiple different types of meditation including, but not limited to; basic, focused, and activity-oriented. Basic involves sitting quietly and emptying the mind of all thoughts. Focused meditation focuses the mind on an object or sound in an attempt to regulate regulate thoughts. Activity oriented can be anything from repetitive motions whereby the participant does particular gestures multiple times to simplify their thought processes to physical activity such as yoga that induces mindfulness into particular moves and actions.

Meditation relates to the intelligence field because many jobs within the intelligence field are high-stress and anything to mitigating this high stress is useful.  However, because meditation is not universally accepted by everyone to reduce stress, it would only be marginally useful as a blanket technique for the intelligence community.

  • Can reduce stress, improve multitasking, and improve concentration
  • Can creative mindfulness that results in general improved positivity towards life

  • Likely requires repetition and frequent implementation to become effective
  • Requires practitioners to be receptive of the approach
  • Difficulties with quantifying any benefits (ie: how effective meditation can be)

  1. Research different techniques of meditation and select the one you feel is most comfortable (ex.: basic meditation, activity-oriented meditation, etc.)
  2. Find a place where you are comfortable to meditate
  3. Carry out your chosen meditative technique

*For best results, we suggest continuing meditation several times before judging whether it is effective or not.

Personal Application of Technique:
Individuals in the class were asked to take 15 minutes and participate in some form of meditation.  They were also asked to write a few sentences prior to meditating and immediately following meditation as a personal reflection of how they felt about the meditation.  The group then discussed their personal application of meditation, their individual response, as well as the potential effectiveness of the technique for the intelligence community.  

A number of meditation approaches were explored, including basic meditation, mindfulness techniques, activity oriented techniques, and focused meditation. The ensuing discussion brought up the issue of repetition and that fact that it is a technique that needs to be practiced over time in order to start to become effective.  Additionally, the purpose of meditation was discussed -- a stress reduction technique, to increase productivity, as a way to control one’s mind.

In regards to an intelligence application, this analytic modifier is something that has shown outcomes in stress reduction, blood pressure reduction, as well as an increase in productivity, and relationships in the workplace.  The application of meditation has the potential to modify the analyst rather than the tools used by the analyst.

Rating:  2 of 5 ˜˜˜˜Stars

For Further Information:
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment

In The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment, Levy et al. discussed an experiment they conducted testing the effects of mindfulness meditation training on multitasking. Over an 8-week period, tests were conducted on three groups: a group that received mindfulness mediation training (Group A), a control group that received no training (Group B) and a group that received relaxation training (Group C). Group B, the initial control group, was given a pre- and post-test and then was given the same meditation training as Group A for the subsequent 8-week period. The participants of Group A were from San Francisco and those from Group B and C were from Seattle, and all participants were females who were human resource personnel around the age of 45. Additionally, each group underwent stressful multitasking operations that simulated an office job.

Mindfulness meditation consists of Focused Attention (FA) mediation and Open Monitoring (OM) meditation. In FA training, meditators are told to focus on the "in and out" of their breath and when distracted, to redirect their attention to their breath. In OM training, meditators are told to allow into awareness whatever comes to mind and then release it from their attention. The training in this study was mostly Focused Attention training. Neuroscientific studies on the effects of meditation on multitasking are promising but do not show real-world application.

Results showed that the meditation group, Group A, did show improvement in several areas tested by the multitasking operations. While the meditation group expected less benefit initially than the relaxation and control group, they recorded a higher expectation of benefit at the end. As multitasking often leaves people feeling negative emotions, the meditation training group had significantly less of a pre- to post-task increase in negative emotions as well than the other groups. Additionally, the meditation group's mindful awareness and attention after training increased, their memory for the task improved and they showed a reduced number of task-switches and greater time spent on each task. Group B showed similar results after entering the second 8-week period in which they received actual meditation training.

The biggest limitation of the study is that the groups were not completely randomized. Some of the participants were chosen in San Francisco and others were chosen in Seattle. Likewise, those chosen from their respective cities were not mixed between groups. Additionally, the training was only performed on females near the age of 45 which may introduce bias into the results. Another limitation is that the test required human intervention both in administering the test and in the data analysis. I am also curious to know whether the participants knew the exact purpose of the study which may have shaped their behavior somehow.

It would be interesting to see the results of a similar study conducted on professionals in the intelligence community. Meditation training, and specifically mindfulness meditation training, holds potential for those working in high-stress environments that often require multi-tasking. Introducing this kind of study into much different profession that also experiences high-stress may be beneficial to the participants. This study was valuable in that it was the first to test the real-world applications of meditation training on multitasking operations.

Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A., & Ostergren, M. (n.d.). The effects of mindfulness meditation training on multitasking in a high-stress information environment. Graphics Interface, doi: 2012

Meditation, Mindfulness, and Cognitive Flexibility


This research study looked at the link between meditation, self-reported mindfulness, and cognitive flexibility.  It compared a group of meditators that were experienced in mindfulness meditation with a group new to meditation considered the control group.  The study used the Stroop task and the d2-test of attention to test each participant’s ability to suppress interfering information and to focus and direct all their attention on one task.  Doing well in these areas is a sign of good cognitive flexibility often practiced during mindfulness training; therefore, the experienced meditators should do well in these areas.   Furthermore, the study used the Kentucky inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) to assess the level of mindfulness participants experienced. 

The findings showed that cognitive flexibility showed a positive relationship to meditation practice and levels of mindfulness.  The meditators performed significantly better than the non-meditators in terms of all levels of attention.  Additionally, self-reported mindfulness was higher in meditators than in non-meditators and positive correlations with all attention measures were moderate to high strength.  

These findings suggest mindfulness shows linkage to improvements of attention function and cognitive flexibility.   Basically, high levels of mindfulness are correlated with high processing speed, good attention, inhibitory control, and good coordination of speed mindfulness showed links to reduced errors across measures, suggesting greater attentional control, accuracy of visual scanning, inhibitory control, carefulness, cognitive flexibility and overall quality performance. These findings supported the hypotheses that mindfulness correlates positively with task performance overall. 


This study contradicts itself in some areas.  The main area in which it contradicts itself is very important to the study.  In the abstract the study mentions the control groups is a group of naïve mediators.  Later in the study, researchers refer to the control group as non-meditators.  There is a large difference between the two therefore, using them interchangeably to describe the control group of the study creates confusion and exhibits a lack of clarity throughout the study.  This again comes up in the methods section referring to the control group as the naïve group.  The study should show a higher degree of consistency.

Additionally, the authors found it necessary to have participants take the test by using paper and a pencil.  They state this is how meditators take the test in the meditation center, therefore, it is necessary to use a paper and pencil version of the test to effectively assess the different aspects of attention performance.  While this may be true, a better explanation as to why in this particular instance a paper and pencil test is required to perform the test.  This would have provided a necessary background for the study seemingly leaving out a key point.

Overall, while this study had its flaws it did clearly exemplify the differences between mediators and the control group.  Although it did not show any real linkages to the intelligence community, it did highlight many benefits that meditation generates.  These factors may improve the work and attention of individual’s everyday work, skills that are applicable to the intelligence community.  


Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and Cognition, 18(1). 176-168. Retrieved from:

Short-term Meditation Training Improves Attention and Self-regulation

A number of research conducted in recent years have illustrated the benefit of meditation and mindfulness training. Variations of meditation methods share a number of key components including body relaxation, mental imagery, and breathing practice. This research focused on integrative body-mind training (IBMT) that allowed for high degree of awareness of body and breathing rather than focusing on efforts to control thoughts.
The participants were provided brief instructions on the method. A coach and a compact disk guided them to achieve a balanced state of mind. 40 random Chinese undergraduates were assigned to an experimental group and another 40 were assigned to a controlled group. Both groups did not have prior training experience. Both groups conducted training for 5 days, 20 minutes per day. The experimental group was given a short term IMBT and the control group was given a relaxation training exercise. Both groups were given tests one week before the training and immediately after the final session. These tests included Attention Network Test (ANT), the Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrix, and the Profile of Mood States (POMS). A computerized attention test was used to measure orienting, alerting, and the ability to resolve conflict.  
The results indicated that experimental group improved executive attention significantly after 5 days of the short-term IBMT exercise compared to the control group. Based on results from the POM exercise, the researchers concluded that the short-term IBMT enhanced positive moods and reduced negative moods. In addition, the Raven score also improved post IBMT in the experimental groups and only marginally in the control group. Also, the experimental groups were able to reduce mental stress after the exercises. Researchers concluded that IBMT improved attention and self-regulation.  

I enjoyed reading about this study because the paper is well written and the experiments were conducted very well. The authors explained their thought process for each stage of the experiment. A number of efforts were taken to certify the validity of the study. Some of these included the random selection of participants for the experimental group as well as the control group and used objective/standardized tests with researcher blind to the conditions. The authors help understand the results by providing possible reasons for why IBMT worked after only a few days of practice as oppose to other methods that require longer training periods. The only limitation of this article is that although

Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., & Sui, D. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-reguation. Retrieved from html

Immediate and long-tern effects of meditation on acute stress reactivity, cognitive functions, and intelligence.

In this article the authors examine how people react when in stressful situations followed by a period of meditation.  They wanted to look at how physiological parameters, cognitive functions, intelligence, and emotional quotients changed over time under these conditions.  The authors selected 34 male volunteers between the ages of 18-30 for this experiment. They excluded anyone who was involved with drugs or tobacco, prior daily use of meditation, and anyone with a medical condition.  Females were excluded based on the grounds their menstrual cycle affects their stress levels.

The first phase involved the participants learning which computer game stressed them the most of the ones provided, and then being assigned to that computer game.  The in between stage had the participants learn basic meditation and then were given tapes to listen to.  They were instructed to listen to the tape while meditating daily for one month, or without it if that was their preference.  Each meditation was supposed to last about 15 minutes.  The last phase included a period of time playing the stressful computer game followed immediately by mediation.  The participants were monitored for changes in the various levels mentioned earlier. 

One results was a significant improvements of general intelligence (IQ) for memory and the Sternberg memory (for short-term memory) and Stroop test scores (cognitive flexibility).  Additionally, baseline GSR (galvanic skin response) and AS (acute stress) scores within stage 2 were lower.  Emotional intelligence, chronic stress levels, basal cortisol, and heart rates did not change.  The authors conclude that young adult males could reverse some of the stress effects with meditation.

I may be biased, but excluding women because they have a menstrual cycle is ridiculous.  I understand that stress levels can vary for genders, but they also greatly vary for professions, life situations, age, etc.  I personally don't feel that justifying the exclusion of women based on perceived different stress levels is acceptable.  In fairness, this study was done in India, and I'm not sure if the cultural perception of women is significantly different in India. 

Additionally, the authors are unclear whether they did Phase 1 computer game then instruction on meditation and then Phase 2 the same thing, or that meditation wasn't introduced until Phase 2.  Or perhaps they meant 1 month of computer games and stress, followed by one month of just meditation, and then one month of computer games and stress again.  In the end, only Table 1 explained it clearly to me- the first phase involved no meditation, the in between stage involved just meditation, and the second phase combined the computer game followed by meditation.  Personally, it would have just been easier to make three phases. 

I had a major issue with the authors not including a control group that had no experience with meditation throughout the experiment.  They stated the participants were their own control group (through not having done meditation for the first phase).  While this is true, I feel that including a base group throughout the study would give it more credibility.  

Lastly, meditation could be useful to the intelligence community if there is indisputable evidence that it helps improve stress reduction.  I remain skeptical as some studies showed some improvement, while others showed no improvement.  The results don't seem consistent enough to warrant requiring this in the workplace.

Singh, Y., Sharma, R., & Talwar, A. (2012). Immediate and long-tern effects of meditation on acute stress reactivity, cognitive functions, and intelligence. Alternative Therapies18(6), Retrieved from & Long Term Effects Of Meditation_2012.pdf

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Meditation for Work Stress, Anxiety and Depressed Mood in Full-Time Workers


Manocha et. al (2011) conducted an 8 week 3 arm randomized controlled trial which compared mental silence yoga called "sahaja yoga", relaxation oriented meditation, and a no treatment control group.  The purpose of the study was to determine if meditation practices have the ability to reduce stress in the workplace.  Participants had to be full time employees who worked more than 30 hours a week.  For both test groups participants had to conduct meditation sessions twice weekly and in one hour sessions.  Moreover, the participants had to practice twice daily for 10-20 minutes each time (Manocha et. al, 2011).  At each session participants were taught by health professionals in the mental silence meditation(MSM) group and the relaxation control group (RC).  The non-treatment group was comprised of subjects who were told that they were on a waiting list to be put into one of the two meditation groups at a later date.   Moreover, both intervention groups were conducted at the same institutional location, in similar rooms, same time of day, similar support materials, and equal duration of time (Manocha et. al, 2011).  Lastly, each participants were measured pre-test with the Psychological Strain Questionnaire, which is an accepted measure of work stress (Manocha et. al, 2011).

The results of the study found that meditation for both intervention groups did not show any adverse effects for participants in the study.  Most significantly, it was noticed that mental silence form of meditation performed significantly better than relaxation control meditation.  Mental silence meditation proved more significantly to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression (Manocha et. al, 2011).  Manchoa (2011) also concluded that meditation that strongly involves thought reduction and mental silence may be more of efficient relaxation technique to improve health and reduce stress in the workplace.


I found this study interesting that it found that mental silence meditation was able to improve both worker health and reduce stress in the workplace. The authors acknowledge that implementing a mental silence meditation would be low-cost to institute in a workplace and fairly easy to teach participants to learn proper techniques of mental silence meditation.  Through reading about mental silence mediation I agree that it would prove beneficial to incorporate into the workplace, but the authors confirming that their study proves that mental silence mediation is the best reduction of stress in the workplace is a little stretched.  The authors never conducted a follow up experiment to see if the participants continued to do the mental silence meditation after the experiment was over.  Moreover, the authors never assessed if the benefits that the meditation provided was maintained or participants shortly went back to how the participants originally were. I think that instead of making the participants conduct their meditation exercises after work hours, I would think that conducting the meditation during the work day would prove more beneficial.


Manocha, R., Black, D., Sarris, J., & Stough, C. (2011). A randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety, and depressed mood in full-time workers. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-8. Retrieved from

Transcendental Meditation and Concentration Ability

Barnhard Sabel conducted a study to determine whether transcendental meditation lead to an improvement in concentration ability.

The study used 60 practitioners of transcendental meditation in a double-blind study.  The experimental group meditated for 20 minutes while the control group read text. Their concentration was tested before and after the experiment. The study found that meditation had no measurable short-term effects on concentration. Moreover, the subjects that were more experienced in meditation did not have a higher concentration score than subjects who were less experienced.

The study used the same number of males and females. The subjects' experience in transcendental meditation varied from a few days to 99 months. The concentration test called d2 was used for both groups. The tests had subjects cross out 'd's that had two marks around the letter (example of test in picture). They were measured on both speed and accuracy.

The authors acknowledge that the main issue with this study is that the test used to measure concentration, the d2 test, may not be the best way to measure the supposed benefits of transcendental meditation. Even so, the results of this study shows that the claimed benefits of transcendental meditation should be met with skepticism.

Transcendental meditation could still be a useful practice though. As discussed in last week's post about brain training. there is a possible placebo effect with transcendental meditation. Though the study did not show an improvement, it is possible that by believing meditation works while practicing it, the subject's concentration could increase. if this is the case for some, than meditation could have benefits. 

I am hesitant to say that the possible placebo effects could still make meditation useful for the intelligence community, as members of the IC tend to be fairly skeptical. which would greatly reduce any placebo effect.


 Sabel, B (1980). Transcendental meditation and concentration ability, Perceptual and Motor Skills. 50:3, 799-802. Retrieved from 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Developing Consciousness in Organizations: The Transcendental Meditation Program in Business

The change in the structure of the business world can be attributed to a number of things, one of which is the human psyche.  The authors of the article "Developing Consciousness in Organizations: The Transcendental Meditation Program in Business", look at the potential benefits of using Transcendental Meditation to improve the work place.  Schmidts-Wilk, Alexander, and Swanson (1996) looked at the concept of consciousness, particularly in the business place.  The authors review existing literature in terms of the application of Transcendental Mediation on both individuals as well as the overall work place structure.

Transcendental Meditation is an ancient technique that is used to mitigate stress which in turn allows for the an individual's conscious to develop.  The authors note that Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation is the most frequently studied, largely in part because the technique does not involve major life changes, so it is relatively easy to implement.

Productivity of people who practiced Transcendental Meditation was measured and looked at in both retrospective studies as well as prospective studies. This was accomplished through surveys where individuals, both practitioners of meditation as well as non-practitioners, self-reported on a number of factors including job satisfaction, performance, and various relationships in their workplace.  Once the results were analyzed, the research found that individuals who meditated had a statistically significant reports of greater satisfaction at worm compared to non-meditating individuals. Schmidts-Wilk, determined that the four case studies observed demonstrated that the development of consciousness was beneficial in the work place, and that Transcendental Meditation was one way to accomplish that.

Longitudinal studies were conducted in corporate settings.  Due to the subject of the study, quasi-experimental designs were employed.  Overall, the organizations were more productive when their employees developed a consciousness, which can be obtained through Transcendental Meditation.  Not only were the individuals more productive and had better relationships, but this moved over into the overall functioning of the organization.

The authors of this study looked at a number of different previous studies and their findings, both as applied to the individual as well as applied to a larger organization, such as a business.  One element discovered in this experiment was that business functions can be improved through means outside of outside structural change.  The application of Transcendental Mediation is one way in which this can be improved on a more internal level.

The authors of this study acknowledged that there were some shortcomings to the approach taken from the various studies.  Particularly the self-reporting that was done by the subjects, though the results of the quasi-experimental approach and standardized questionnaires were consistent with the self reporting.  This consistency increases the confidence in the surveys done.

While the studies did indicate that there was an improvement in the development of consciousness, it did not seem to take any push-back about mediation into account.  Individuals who may be told to participate in meditation are less likely to have the same positive response as the individuals who want to participate.

Schmidts-Wilk, J., Alexander, C. N., & Swanson, G. C. (1996). Developing consciousness in organizations: The transcendental meditation program in business. Journal of Business and Psychology, 10(4), 429-44.

Short Term Effects of Meditation versus Relaxation on Cognitive Functioning

King and Coney compared the cognitive performances of 27 experienced meditators and 27 non-meditators immediately following their respective meditation or relaxation sessions in order to find the short term effects of meditation on cognitive functions. A battery of seven tests were used to measure cognitive performance and results showed there was no significant difference between the performance of the meditation group and the relaxation group in any of the seven tests. 

The practice of meditation is said to improve concentration, reduce the meditator's vulnerability to distractions, and open their mind by relinquishing expectations and preconceptions. The meditator should minimize goal directed mental activity and increase non-judgmental reasoning. The authors reflect on the literature that posits physiological reactions to meditation that may alter cognitive functions, such as increased activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. 

The pre- and post-tests attempted to measure the participants' general intelligence, verbal fluency, spatial reasoning, spatial memory, verbal memory, verbal short term memory, and spatial short term memory. Between the pre- and post-tests, the meditation group participated in mindful meditation for twenty minutes while the other group relaxed in a quiet setting. The meditating group was instructed to attempt the deepest meditation mindset they could within this time frame while the relaxation group was instructed to match the meditation group's physical stature, sitting upright with their eyes closed, but to resist falling asleep. This occurred at their respective testing desks. All participants took the post-tests in the same order as they had taken the pre-test and results were calculated in the same way. 

Pre-test results show that the two groups were well-matched on abilities from the start. Post-test results showed almost parallel changes in performance between the two groups, both by individual test and multivariate analysis. Interestingly, some post-test results showed a decline in performance, albeit small. Finally, the research found a negative correlation between the amount of experience the meditators had with their test results in two of the tests, though the authors proved a stronger negative correlation between results and age,  which is to be expected since cognitive functions are known to decline with age, suggesting this is what drove the scores down rather than increased experience meditating. Overall neither technique, meditation or relaxation, had a significant effect on cognitive performance, except for in two tests, the spatial reasoning and spatial short term memory tests.

The authors carefully detail their testing measurements and their efforts to mitigate biases or false results. Beyond explaining the tests themselves, they explain how they administered the test, making their research more easily replicated. Still, the authors admit that the way they split test questions for pre- and post-test use may have made an uneven distribution in terms of difficulty, skewing the performance results. Because both groups took the same tests in the same order, this would not effect the comparative results.

The authors posit three potential reasons the meditation group did not display better cognitive performance in the study: 1. the group did not achieve a similar altered state to those in previous research, 2. the test measures were insensitive to the type of change meditation induces, and 3. the tests were unable to capture the rapidly diminishing effects of short term meditation. Some members of the meditating group did report being unable to reach their normal "depth" of meditation, though this is subjective and difficult if not impossible to compare across the group. No matter what the cause, the results show little promise for the intelligence community as it is unlikely meditation could be successfully used to improve analysis if the setting of meditation so easily disturbs results, the effects are limited to very narrow cognitive functions, or the effects last such a short amount of time. 

King, G. and Coney, J. (2006). Short term effects of meditation versus relaxation on cognitive functioning. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 38(2), 200-215. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Summary of Findings (Green Team): Brain Training (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Brain Training
Green Team
Rating (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 8 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in May 2013 regarding Brain Training specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Brain training is an analytic modifier that seeks to improve memory, logic, pattern recognition, and other cognitive functions by having participants play games related to these fields. It is currently unknown how well brain training transfers to intelligence analysis, as well as the effect size and the longevity of the effects.   

  • Test results may improve with repetition
  • Brain training may lead to other habits and interactions that increase cognitive function
  • Transferability of learned cognitive functions has been shown across similar tasks
  • Can be incorporated into games that appeal to a wide range of people

  • Transference of skills to dissimilar tasks has not been adequately demonstrated
  • Difficult to measure the effectiveness of the training on tasks completed in the workplace or general interactions
  • Improvement may be correlated to the interest in the activity rather than cognitive improvement

  1. Create a test, survey, etc. whereby participants will take the test multiple times in order to monitor any changes between tests
  2. Establish a baseline intelligence performance (for example, take a survey or run a test the first time through)
  3. Conduct the test as many times as planned while measuring results
  4. Examine differences between performances both within the test subjects and between the test subjects
  5. Report any significant or insignificant changes over time, or in comparison to previous studies

Personal Application of Technique:
The class was tasked individually to complete a brain training exercise on the site that tested the areas of memory, visual-spatial, concentration, logic, and executive functions. The class participated in the same game twice, recording the overall scores both times, in addition to their best and worst categories in each game. The results were mixed across the class. One participant doubled his scores, while another’s score improved in two areas and declined in another two.

The participants suggested reasons for their increased scores that were unrelated to the actual cognitive improvement brain training purports to provide. For instances, better understanding the instructions of the activities or knowing what to expect likely greatly affected the results. Additionally, participants suggested they changed their methods of completing the activities strategically during the second execution.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Summary of Findings (White Team): Brain Training (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 8 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in May 2013 regarding Brain Training specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Brain training is an analytic modifier that is used to improve cognitive functions through the repetition of computerized tests. It is intended to improve an individual's cognitive functions throughout their daily activities. The literature conducted so far on brain training is inconclusive in demonstrating that brain training improves cognitive functioning abilities.

1. Ability to improve cognitive functioning.
2. Improves your performance with practice within the specific activity.
3. The games used in brain training are widely accessible and relatively inexpensive.
4. Has the ability to test different areas of cognitive functioning.

1. Difficult to measure its effects.
2. Have to conduct brain training on a daily basis for a long period of time in order for it to demonstrate effectiveness.
3. Brain training utilizes games to conduct tests so it is difficult to create a game that appeals to every participant's interests.
4. Difficult to implement in a work setting based on the level of interest and effort that will be applied to brain training activities.

Step by Step Action:
Choose a brain training exercise.
Conduct the exercise multiple times, over a period of time.
Participate in the brain training exercise on a regular basis during a specific time of the day.
Determine whether your score improves overtime.
Determine whether this exercise is transferable to other relevant activities.
Measure the improvements by comparing the accuracy of estimates before and after the exercises.

The class was direct to go to and to the specific game called “Uber Brain.” “Uber Brain” consisted of five games that were a total of one minute in length and repeated consecutively. Each game measured a different aspect of cognitive functioning. At the end of the activity results were recorded and each participant was given an area that they scored the highest in and an area that they needed to improve. The game was completed a second time to see if scores improved.

As a class it was interesting to see how some participants scores improved significantly and how some participants’ scores only improved minorly. Questions that were brought up at the end of the activity focused on if the improvement in scores was a result of improving cognitive functioning ability or if the improvement was a result of becoming more familiarized with the gameplay of “Uber Brain”. It was also discussed if conducting the game at a certain time of the day would improve scores among the participants.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control

The article seeks to compare expert video game players to non-players in order to see if there are any significant differences between how the two groups perform in attention, memory, and executive control skills.  The three games used were Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (from 2002), Tetris (from 2004), and Rise of Nations (from 2003).  Medal of Honor represented a first-person shooter (FPS), Tetris represented a puzzle game, and Rise of Nations represented a strategy game.  In each group there were males who were both expert gamers (played 7+ hours a week) and non-gamers (less than an hour a week), along with a control group who did not participate in any of the games.  Each person within the longitudinal group of the study practiced in 15 game sessions (1.5 hours per session) in their assigned game over 4-5 weeks.  The control group were tested without playing one of the games.

All participants took tests related to visual and attentional tasks, spatial processing and memory tasks, and executive control tasks.  Three of the five visual and attentional tasks included spotting a triangle within a circle when briefly exposed to an image and then correctly choosing the location of the shape, spotting a white letter and if an X followed when exposed to 16 or 22 letters rapidly on a screen, and count the number of dots when briefly exposed to an image of 1 to 8 dots.  Two of the three spatial processing and memory tasks include selecting the pattern of grey blocks that lit up white in the order they flashed and discerning whether two shapes were actually the same shape when presented.  Two of the four executive control tasks included memorizing sets of words while doing math problems with tasked recollection of the terms and a disc switching game involving discs, pegs, and the ability to move one disc at a time in order to match a pattern.

The comparison of expert video games versus non-gamers lead to several conclusions.  First, expert video game players outperformed non-gamers in many of the categories.  The experts were able to better track objects that were moving at great speed, outperform the non-gamers in visual short-term memory tests, alternate between tasks faster, and more accurately perceive and report shapes which had been rotated.  Non-gamers were found to not have achieved much improvement in their overall skills from the tests after playing their assigned video games for 21 hours.  For the rest of the tests, the non-gamers did not perform significantly better in any of the tasks save for the mental rotation of the similar shapes.    

Although this article does not specifically mention, 'brain training' it is clear that this study investigates just that.  The researchers want to answer the question if 21 hours of brain training can lead to improved results in various cognitive tests.  The authors made sure to use several different gaming categories including a FPS, strategy game, and puzzle game.  This makes sense as each interacts with the player in very different ways.  The authors set up control groups, and made sure the test subjects were clearly classified as either expert gamer or non-gamer.  Unfortunately, 21 hours was not found to really be significant time for non-gamers to really gain skills in the visual and attentional tasks, spatial processing and memory tasks, and executive control tasks.  However, the research did prove that expert gamers performed better in the four listed tasks mentioned earlier, potentially due to an already established experience with games.

I like how the authors selected their games and feel they would be some of the best options the authors could have chosen to represent the categories they were examining.  I was a little put-off that the authors excluded females from parts of the study, but I understand that it was important to keep the variables as similar as possible.  I think it would be interesting to run these same tests exclusively with female expert gamers and non-gamers.  Additionally, although it might be cumbersome to have participants play these video games for a longer period of time, I feel that the results of non-gamers gaining extended experience from game play could increase their performance on the cognitive tests.

Although not universally applicable to the intelligence field, this study does have some small contributions to the field.  One of these is that the study shows that a relatively short amount of time to train people in games is not significant enough to improve results.  This could be applied with intelligence analyst work in general- the repeated practice improves analytic products over time.  Personally, I feel that much like sports or any activity that requires practice, great improvement would never be expected over a month but would instead take many years to show significant improvement.  Overall, I feel the article was very thoughtful and made sure to keep the variables as separate as possible for optimal results.  

Boot, W.R., Kramer, A.F., Simons, D.J., Fabiana, M., & Gratton, G. (2008).  The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control. Acta Psychologica, 3(129). 387-398. Retrieved from

Extending Brain-Training to the Affective Domain: Increasing Cognitive and Affective Executive Control through Emotional Working Memory Training

Schewizer, Hampshire, and Dalgleish (2011) conducted a study investigating whether brain-training, specifically working memory (WM) training, improves cognitive functions beyond the training task. Their focus was on emotional material, arguing that it constitutes much of the information we process on a daily basis. The research suggests WM training improves performance in other WM tasks and in fluid intelligence, but only WM training involving emotional material improves affective information on an emotional Stroop task.

The authors began by differentiating between the areas of cognitive ability brain-training claims to improve, namely working memory (the capacity to actively maintain bits of information in the presence of distractions), fluid intelligence (abstract reasoning and problem-solving abilities), and control over emotional or personal material you want to disengage or engage with. They asserted that for any brain-training methodology to have a wide impact on real-world cognitive functions, there needs to be a transfer across training content. Their main question of interest  was can cognitive training with only neutral information have transferable benefits to cognitive processing of personally relevant material.

Forty-five participants received WM training using either emotional or neutral material, or an undemanding control task. The authors used already established and validated tasks to test transfer effects by modifying the dual n-back task to examine WM and fluid intelligence. They used three versions, one with neutral words and faces, the second with highly emotional words and negative facial expressions (an emotional Stroop task), and a third non-WM-dependent feature that matched the control group's "training". Both groups receiving training showed linear improvement significantly greater than the control group in terms of completion time. Training performance and cognitive transfer affect between the two trained groups did not vary significantly in the digit span task but did in terms of affective transfer effects where the affective training group showed significant pre- to post-training improvements in emotional Stroop performance. Neither the neutral training group or the control group demonstrated affective training effects.

The study was well done in terms of providing adequate background research in addition to explaining their process and results clearly. They took care for controlling mitigating factors that could affect the results, subjecting all three groups of participants to pre-testing to ensure the mean of each group was on the same level. The authors used already validated tasks for testing which strengthened their results. As the emotional Stroop test only looks at the cognitive reaction effects of words with negative connotations, I would be interested in seeing if there is similar affective transfer effects for positively emotionally charged words.

The findings related to better controlling cognitive abilities despite the presence of distractions, particularly in relation to emotional information, relevant or distracting to the task, is of utmost importance to members of the intelligence community. This study suggests that appropriate brain-training can improve decision making in situations that would require the manipulation of emotional material, something analysts commonly have to do.


Schweizer S, Hampshire A, Dalgleish T (2011) Extending brain-training to the affective domain: Increasing cognitive and affective executive control through emotional working memory training. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24372. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024372

Brain Training Game Improves Executive Functions and Processing Speed in the Elderly: A Randomized Controlled Trial

The authors conducted a study involving 32 participants, all of whom were elderly individuals that volunteered to participate in the study.  This study took place in Miyagi prefecture, Japan from March to April 2010.  The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of brain training, particularly video games, on the elderly through a double blind experiment.

The participants were split into to different groups, which played a different game (Brain Age or Tetris).  The games were played for five days a week, for four weeks.  Each of the five weekdays, the participants played for 15 minutes; the Brain Age participants recorded both their title and the score they received while the Tetris group recorded just their score.  Participants in the Brain Age groups participated in a number of games that were both simple to preform as well as activated the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.  The Tetris groups was used as a control group, which looked largely at the positive effect that playing a game had compared to a game that used and stimulated various parts of the brain.

The four cognitive functions that were measured fell under four different categories; global cognitive status, executive function, attention, and processing speed.  A number of cognitive tests were applied to the participants to measure the various levels of cognition both prior and following the four weeks of engaging in activities.

The study found that the scores for the games improved from the initial test to the final test in both groups.  The results of this study further support previous research that indicates the application of games increases the cognitive abilities of elderly individuals.  Therefore, there is a positive correlation between the playing of brain games and the cognitive function of elderly individuals.

This study demonstrates the effectiveness of brain training. particularly in elderly individuals.  The study was effective in the sense that a number of individuals were sampled, and they were randomly placed into two different groups, one of which was a control group.  This provided a base of information in which data from playing mind games and just playing electronic video games and allowed the researchers to compare the two elements.

This is relevant to the intelligence community because it presents a different mindset for increasing cognition level, which potentially provides a different perspective on techniques and tools to use in the workplace to increase cognition levels.

Nouchi, R., Taki, Y., Takeuchi, H., Hashizume, H., Akitsuki, Y., Shigemune, Y., Sekiguchi, A., Kotozaki, Y., Tsukiura, T., Yomogida, Y., & Kawashima, R. (2012). Brain training game improves executive functions and processing speed in the elderly: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 7(1), 1-9. Retrieved from

Brain Training for Silver Gamers: Effects of Age and Game Form on Effectiveness, Efficiency, Self-Assessment, and Gameplay Experience,


Brain training games have caught the attention of western society and have especially caught the attention of the aging demographic.  To analyze the effectiveness of brain training on different age demographics, Nacke et. al (2009) utilized a 2x2 mixed factorial design, which included an age group (young and old) and game form (paper and Nintendo DS game console device).   Nacke et. al (2009) sought to analyze the  effect of age and game form on usability, self-assessment, and gameplay experience.  The results of the experiment were measured in three manners: effectiveness( completion time, error rate), self-assessment measures (arousal, pleasure, dominance) and game experience (challenge, flow, competence, tension, and positive/negative affect) (Nacke et. al, 2009).   The authors had four hypotheses: (1) Younger individuals will finish the test faster on a game-console, while older demographics will finish the test faster with paper and pen form. (2) Younger individuals will complete the task with less errors on a game console, as the older demographics will perform with less errors by completing the test on paper form. (3) Playing on paper will emit less arousal and flow as compared to taking the test on a game console. (4) The challenge level for the test will be much hard on the game console as compared to taking the test with paper and pen form ( Nacke et al., 2009).

The age range for the younger demographic was 18-25 and the age range for the older demographic was 65 and older.  All participants in the study were familiar with physical board and card games.  The game that was utilized for the experiment was Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training, most specifically its game called 20 equations calculation game.  This game requires the user to calculate 20 different random equations using mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication in the shortest time possible.  A similar test was created for individuals to complete using only pen and paper.   Each of the participants took both sets of tests (Nacke et. al, 2009).

Results of the experiment as listed above found that no matter the participants age, taking the test with pen and paper form was far more effective as compared to taking the test on the gaming console.  The paper and pen form also resulted in less errors.  The authors found that taking the test utilizing the game console intrigued participants more and increased their interests in partaking in the test across both age demographics.  Moreover, it was found that the logic problem solving challenges that were presented with the game console test demonstrated that the elderly population conveyed positive feelings to the game, while the younger population conveyed negative feelings.  The authors concluded that digital logic training games provide a positive experience for the elderly population ( Nacke, 2009).  Additionally, it was found that taking the test on the game console took longer to complete for both demographics and resulted in more errors ( Nacke, 2009).


I found it interesting that the pen and paper method resulted in less errors from both the elderly and young populations even though the pen and paper method questions were answered quicker by both demographics.  Before reading this study I thought that the younger population would have performed less errors taking the test with the game console based on how technologically driven our age demographic has become.   One aspect of this study that the authors did not talk about was accounting for the learning processes of each respondent.  The authors did not determine if the respondents were better visual learners, or would complete the tests more efficiently using pen and paper methods.   Moreover, the Brain Training game console game was designed with an older demographic in mind as its target audience, so it is no surprise that the results of the experiment conveyed that the older demographic had more positive experiences with the game than the younger demographic participants.   I think that this study conveys the success of brain training games that would show positive results for the older and children age demographics, but does not efficiently test the cognitive abilities of young adults and middle age individuals.  I think that it would be necessary to conduct a study of a brain training game that would stimulate the mind more than doing simple mathematical problems.

Nacke, L.E., Ing, D., Nacke, A., & Lindley, C.A. (2009). Brain training for  silver gamers: effects of age and game form on effectiveness, efficiency, self-assessment, and gameplay experience. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 12(5), 493-499.  Retrieved from

Short- and Long-term Benefits of Cognitive Training

According to the article scientific evidence showing the increase in brain capacity due to training interventions is rare. However, some evidence suggests that specific cognitive intervention can improve brain capacity. Most cognitive training studies focus on the effect on fluid intelligence, the ability to reason abstractly. In turn, effect on fluid intelligence is predictive of educational or professional success. Often these experiment tasks target the working memory, which allows an individual to store a limited amount of information for a period of time.

The authors conducted an experiment using elementary and middle school children by assigning them with video game like tasks. The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether working memory tasks will improve untrained fluid intelligence (Gf) tasks. 62 children were trained over a one month period. The test group was presented with a series of stimuli from different locations on the computer screen. This group was tasked with deciding whether a certain stimulus has appeared more than once at the same location. The participants of the control group were tasked with answering general knowledge questions along with vocabulary questions. The tasks for both groups include video game like learning and graphic visuals. Pre- and post-training as well as training after three months, the participants’ performance was assessed using a two matrix reasoning tasks.

The results indicated that the experimental group showed an increased performance in untrained fluid-intelligence tasks. Hence, they were most successful at fluid intelligence transfer. The control group who was tasked with knowledge-based tasks did not show much improvement. The post hoc tests after three months revealed the same results. The participants with most training showed high significance in performance. No significant differences were observed in terms of sex, age, grade, number of training sessions, and initial working memory performance. Based on the results, the authors argued that the transfer of fluid intelligence depends on the amount of participant improvement on working memory tasks. Some students’ lack of improvement was associated with the lack of interest in the activities and difficulties of coping with the challenges. Finally, the study concluded that individuals may gain long-term benefits from cognitive training. No group difference in performance was seen with in the first three weeks of training. However, differences in performance emerged over time.    

The authors successfully conducted an experiment which lead to answering a question of interest. Through experimentation they found tangible evidence that cognitive training have a significant effect on working memory and long-term memory in children. These results can be confirmed by other research conducted on aging populations. However, the methodology section of the article needs to be explained better because it does not provide enough information to replicate the study. Since the participants of the experiment were elementary and middle school children, this study is not generalizable to the rest of the population. One of the important aspects of this article is that the authors mentioned the limitation of this study and proposed recommendation for future research. Rather than studying whether cognitive training is effective, future research should focus on studying conditions that best transfer effects, underlying cognitive mechanisms, and for whom cognitive exercises is most useful.   
I’m not sure how relevant cognitive exercises are to the intelligence community. Although cognitive training improves working memory/fluid intelligence and intelligence analysts may benefit from it, it may not be very practical in the implementation.                  

Jaeggi, S., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Shah, P. (2011). Short- and long-term benefits of cognitive training. Retrieved from