Older dogs better at learning new tricks

November 04, 2016

Older adolescents and adults can learn certain thinking skills including non-verbal reasoning more effectively than younger people, finds new UCL (University College London) research.

The study, published in Psychological Science, also highlights the fact that non-verbal reasoning skills can be readily trained and do not represent an innate, fixed ability.

"Although adults and older adolescents benefitted most from training in non-verbal reasoning, the average test score for adolescents aged 11-13 improved from 60% to 70% following three weeks of ten-minute online training sessions," says senior author Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). "This calls into question the claim that entry tests for selective schools that include non-verbal reasoning 'assess the true potential of every child'."

The research involved 558 school pupils aged 11-18 and 105 adults, who were initially tested in various skills and then completed up to 20 days of online training in a particular skill before taking the tests again. They were then tested six months later to see whether the effect of training lasted.

The non-verbal reasoning test involved looking at a 3x3 grid of shapes with the final square left blank. Participants had to choose the correct shape to complete the pattern, and the shapes could vary by colour, size, shape and position. In another test, 'numerosity discrimination', participants were shown two groups of different coloured dots in quick succession and had to judge which group had the most dots.

"We find that these cognitive skills, which are related to mathematics performance, show greater training effects in late adolescence than earlier in adolescence," explains co-lead author Dr Lisa Knoll. "These findings highlight the relevance of this late developmental stage for education and challenge the assumption that earlier is always better for learning. We find that fundamental cognitive skills related to mathematics can be significantly trained in late adolescence."

At the testing stages, volunteers were tested on various tasks, not just the ones they had trained in, to see if the training effects transferred to other skills. No transfer effects were observed, suggesting that the effect of training was specific to each task.

"Some 'brain training' apps claim to improve your IQ by getting you to practise a specific task such as the non-verbal reasoning task we used in our experiment," says co-lead author Ms Delia Fuhrmann (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). "However, there is no evidence that this leads to an improvement in overall cognitive ability. All we can say for sure is that training to spot patterns in a 3x3 grid of abstract shapes improves your ability to spot patterns in a 3x3 grid of abstract shapes. While this ability is commonly tested in IQ tests, it might not be appropriate to make judgements about other forms of intelligence based on the outcomes of such tests."
-end-


University College London

Related Cognitive Skills Articles from Brightsurf:

Lego builds anaesthesia skills according to new study
Lego could be used as a practical tool to train doctors in anaesthetic skills according to new research that has shown a simple task using the building bricks can help improve technical skills - a finding that could improve medical training and patient safety.

Dolphins learn foraging skills from peers
Dolphins can learn new skills from their fellow dolphins. That's the conclusion of a new study reported in the journal Current Biology on June 25.

Children's temperament traits affect their motor skills
A recent study among 3- to 7-year-old children showed that children's motor skills benefitted if a child was older and participated in organised sports.

Associations between screen use, language skills
Researchers combined the results of 42 studies in this analysis to examine associations between the quantity, quality and onset of screen use by children and language skills.

How language proficiency correlates with cognitive skills
An international team of researchers carried out an experiment at HSE University demonstrating that knowledge of several languages can improve the performance of the human brain.

How coworkers impact the value of your skills
New research by Harvard's Growth Lab uncovers the importance of teams and coworkers in shaping productivity, earning potential, and stays of employment.

Finnish children's motor skills at the top in Europe
Data gathered in Finland, Belgium and Portugal reveal that Finnish children are ahead of their European peers in motor skills at ages 6 to 10 years.

Women face more cognitive issues after brain tumor radiation women face more cognitive issues after
Young women who undergo radiation therapy to treat a pediatric brain tumor are more likely to suffer from long-term cognitive impairment than male survivors, according to a study by Georgia State University researchers.

Predictors of refugee adjustment: The importance of cognitive skills and personality
An increased willingness to take risks, reciprocating friendliness, and a conviction that they are in control of their own lives lead to refugees gaining a foothold in Germany faster.

New cognitive training game to improve driving skills among the elderly
Researchers at Tohoku University have developed a new cognitive training game aimed at improving road safety among elderly drivers.

Read More: Cognitive Skills News and Cognitive Skills Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.