Do Memory Games Improve Memory?

Whether it’s a memory competition you’re training for, an online memory game you’re playing, or the newspaper crossword puzzle you’re diligently laboring over, there is no shortage of opportunity to work on improving your memory. But really — do memory games improve memory?

While there have been plenty of studies on what exactly can be done to improve one’s memory, some scientists are skeptical that memory training does any good at all at boosting brain power or combating general forgetfulness.

Do Memory Games Improve Memory?

Do memory games improve memory? Some scientists are skeptical.

Do memory games improve memory? Some scientists are skeptical.

Memory training has its limitations. [Dave] Farrow, a two-time Guinness World Records holder for memorizing playing cards who, in 2009, recalled 59 decks with almost 100 per cent accuracy, explains that learning a specific mnemonic technique does not increase one’s memory in general. This is why he focuses on teaching broader, practical techniques.

“I could teach you, for example, in an afternoon how to memorize a deck of cards, but it wouldn’t make you much better at memorizing numbers than you are right now,” Farrow says. “If there has been any criticisms, it’s that when you train for one of these techniques, it doesn’t make you specifically better” at any other memory tasks.

For this reason, Monica Melby-Lervag, a professor of special-needs education at the University of Oslo, is wary of the growing market of commercial memory-training programs that claim to increase mental agility. In a meta-analysis of a compilation of peer-reviewed studies, published online earlier this year, Melby-Lervag and her colleagues found no evidence that memory training can improve general cognitive performance in children with learning disabilities or even in healthy adults. Since many commercial programs, which are marketed to parents of children with learning issues, tend to be expensive and time-consuming, Melby-Lervag said she cannot recommend them. “We think it’s not worth the money or the effort,” she said.

Offering assurance to the absent-minded, Richard Harris, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, says most of us are actually quite good at remembering things naturally. The hitch is, we tend to remember the stuff that interests us.

If you want to read more about memory training , you can access the entire Globe and Mail article here.

Do memory games improve memory? The jury still appears to be out on that question. But, go ahead — enjoy the games. Just be aware that while they may be good for practicing your analytical or problem-solving skills, they may not help specific aspects of your memory in the long run.

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