Charles Hume and Monica Melby-Lervåg conducted a meta-analysis of the results of different memory training studies to determine if there was an improvement in cognitive function.
Hume and Lervåg examined the results of 23 studies. To be included in the review, studies had to be either quasi-experiments without randomization or randomized controlled trials. The studies also had to have a treatment or an untreated control group. After the selection criteria was implemented, 23 studies with 30 group comparisons were reviewed.
Results of the study showed that there was an improvement in short-term working memory skills. However, in verbal working memory skills, the results were not maintained in follow up studies. On the other hand, "limited evidence" suggested that visuospatial working memory enhancements could be maintained.
The study did not find evidence of working memory training transferring to other skills such as nonverbal and verbal ability, inhibitory processes in attention, word decoding, and arithmetic. Hume and Lervåg concluded that memory training programs to not produce long term, generalizeable results but rather short term and targeted results.
The authors acknowledged possible limitations of the study such as the different clinical conditions of the various studies and the age of participants (ranging from children to adults). Even so, the results were applicable to all ages.
The results of this study are directly applicable to intelligence professionals. First and foremost, targeted memory training can produce specific and short term results. As long as we limit our expectations and make it a habit to practice certain exercises on a regular basis, there would be an improvement in short term working memory skills, which can help an analyst remember more information when conducting analysis.
Second, a project manager or team leader can view software and programs that are advertised as improving all cognitive abilities with legitimate skepticism. This can save both time that would have been wasted trying out a new program as well as the money that would have been wasted purchasing it.
As for the study itself, the only criticism I have is that they used both children and adults. They acknowledge that this is a limitation, but I have some doubts about the applicability of the findings to both children and adults, especially with a an examination of only 23 studies.
Melby-Lervåg M, Hulme C. Is working memory training effective? A meta-analytic review.Developmental Psychology [serial online]. February 2013;49(2):270-291. Available from: PsycARTICLES, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 29, 2013.