Over the past couple of months I have been getting involved in some exciting collaborations with researchers in the States and Australia and we are introducing a number of innovations in the IQ Mindware project for maximizing IQ, cognitive performance, brain health & neuroplasticity.
The infographic of what we are now doing is shown below, and we are focusing on a number of core dimensions of brain functioning:
Psychometric IQ (measured by IQ tests)
Problem solving skills & strategies
Working memory and executive functioning
Decision making skills and strategies
Emotional intelligence (EQ)
Nootropics (brain nutrients and supplements)
To create iterative improvements in the applications’ effectiveness, we are building in continual feedback from the CogPsyLab experiments and analysis, anonymous performance data from the application use itself, and systematic customer feedback on what was and what was not effective and user friendly.
This is shown in the infographic below (click twice to enlarge):
To get more involved in this R&D developmental process you can sign up to CogPsyLab for monthly newsletters, opportunities to get involved in research and vouchers for free or reduced software – often at beta stages of development.
How to optimize your dual N-back training?
This article has been written as a response to those of you who are interested in how best to train your working memory using the dual n-back – specifically using IQ Mindware working memory training software.
The answer to this also applies to dual n-back training in general. Some of you apply a kind of ‘internal counting’ strategy, rehearsing the letters and visualizing the locations in mind after each new presentation. Some of you use an ‘intuitive’ strategy in which you let your ‘subconscious’ mind guide your responses in the task. Some of you may use ‘chunking’ strategies where you rehearse series of letters or numbers in a strategic, broken-up way, allowing your attention to flexibly focus on getting the minimum score to maintain or go up a level.
Which of these is the best strategy for increasing your working memory capacity and for improving your overall cognitive functioning?
Before we tackle this question directly, let us review some of the basics. Both HighIQPro and i3 Mindware train your working memory.
Working memory definition
Working memory has been defined as:
“It is a set of skills that helps us keep information in mind while using that information to complete a task or execute a challenge.”
A useful metaphor for working memory is the ‘mental workspace’.
“a flexible, capacity limited, mental workspace used to store and process information in the service of on-going cognition”
Morrison & Chein, 2010
Working memory has two separate short term stores for two types of information: verbal and visuo-spatial. These are sometimes called the ‘phonological loop’ and the ‘visuo-spatial scratch pad’.
Model of the components of working memory
There is also a ‘super-system’ called the ‘Central Executive’ that controls the flow of information into these two short term stores, and the filtering out of irrelevant information in order to focus on and remember information that helps with our goals and current tasks. This is an attentional control system.
Working memory capacity definition
Working memory capacity reflects the ability to maintain a few task-relevant items of information (such as concepts, rules or images) in the face of distracting irrelevant information. Since working memory makes information available for more advanced cognitive processing, working memory capacity – the number of distinct ‘chunks’ of information you can hold in mind at the same time – is one of the main rate limiting factors for higher-order cognitive functions such as fluid intelligence, planning, complex decision making, comprehension, and creative problem solving.
In general terms, the larger your working memory capacity or ‘mental workspace’, the greater your capacity for higher order cognition and thus academic and professional achievement. An example of this relationship is shown below.
Effective working memory training: Dual N-Back training
The aim of all WM training programs is to expand working memory capacity. The most widely studied brain training exercise targeting WM capacity is the N-back task. The N-back task involves viewing a continuous stream of items (e.g., letters) and deciding whether each item matches the stimulus presented n stimuli back. In Dual N-back training, a verbal and a visuo-spatial stream of items is presented simultaneously and item matches have to be detected for both types of information. This dual task requires updating items in both the visual short term story and the verbal short term stores of working memory.
We have now reviewed the necessary background information to answer the main question of this article:
What are the best strategies for doing the working memory n-back exercise in my HighIQPro or i3 Mindware training?
Two types of dual n-back training: strategy training and core training
There are two basic types of training for IQ Mindware’s dual n-back and other working memory training programs: strategy training and core training (review Morrison & Chein, 2011).
The key difference between these is one type is what cognitive scientists call ‘domain-specific’, while the other type is what cognitive scientists call‘domain-general’.
Domain specific means for a particular type of information.Training with domain-specific strategies allows you to remember increasing amounts of information of a particular type – whether visual/spatial or verbal/audio. An example of this kind of training is rehearsal – repeating letters to yourself to keep them in mind.
Domain general means something that deals any type of information. Core training targets domain-general working memory functions such as attentional focus, ignoring irrelevant information, processing visual and audio stimuli both at the same time, and responding to targets. These kinds of functions are the most important ones in your working memory training, and have the most wide-reaching benefits for your cognition.
Let us look at each type of training in more detail.
1. Strategy training
This involves using specific techniques or strategies for keeping in mind either audio/verbal or visuo-spatial information on the n-back task. There are three types of strategy training that are often used in the IQ Mindware training software.
1. Rehearsal. Both children and adults can improve on the dual n-back through using, and practicing with what is called rehearsal. For the audio stimuli, this is experienced as a inner voice – or ‘sub-vocalization’ – that repeats the string of letters to keep them in mind, continually updating the list as new letters are presented. The letters may even be said aloud using this strategy. For the visuo-spatial stimuli, this is experienced as a point-by-point ‘scanning’ of the different locations of the squares. This may involve imagining the locations or actually moving the eyes. Both the sub-vocalisation and scanning are ‘rehearsal’ strategies, and they may improve working memory capacity the efficiency of working memory’s Central Executive.
2. Chunking. Sometimes during the dual n-back task, a letter or location may be repeated one two or even three times. When this happens it is easier perform on the n-back exercise because with only one ‘place holder’ there is less information to ‘encode’ to do the task. Or at other times, there may be a meaningful string of letters that forms a word or acronym, or the sequence of locations forms a known shape. When items can be grouped together like this, easing the burden on our memory system, this is called ‘chunking’. Chunking can also benefit from practice.
3. Attention jumping. As you get more experienced with the HighIQPro or i3 Mindware n-back task, it is possible to strategically direct your attention in ‘jumps’ to useful strings of letters or square locations in order to maintain or go up an n-back level. Using this strategy, you are not actually updating the items in your working memory continuously, but are ‘counting through’ a particular string of items and then refreshing it from the start again for the next string.
Which of these strategy training methods is best for developing your working memory functioning and your overall cognitive ability?
There is a clear answer to this question: rehearsal. Rehearsal can contribute to the overall efficiency and performance of your working memory system.
Using the other two strategies is counter-productive for working memory training. And here’s why. Both these strategies are actually was of getting around (i.e. compensating for) limitations of working memory capacity to increase your n-back performance. But getting practice with these strategies doesn’t actually help increase working memory capacity itself.
You can always avoid attention jumping. Sometimes it is impossible to help yourself ‘chunking’ because repetitions or meaningful combinations of items or patterns just happen randomly from time to time in the exercise. That’s OK. But don’t make a point of looking for patterns and getting practice with this strategy.
IQ Mindware software differs from other dual n-back versions in that it has a ‘hard’ setting which prevents attention jumping as much as possible. This option is shown highlighted in red in the IQ Mindware option panel below.
Benefits of rehearsal strategy training
There is evidence that rehearsal training can transfer to other working memory tasks and increase memory for other types of information – e.g. rehearsal training for letters could result in improvements for words or numbers. This could be useful in everyday life for remembering instructions, or telephone numbers or passwords!
There is also some evidence (in studies with children) that training with a rehearsal strategy benefits mental arithmetic and the ability to follow instructions.
Rehearsal strategy training has been reported to improve working memory and every day memory in older adults.
2. Core training for working memory
Core training targets the domain-general Central Executive of your working memory system – not the two sub-systems we looked at in the model. It is the Central Executive that is responsible for the attentional control that controls the follow of information in your mental workspace – how you filter, update and monitor the information flow for both audio and visuo-spatial items.
When you do the dual n-back exercise in HighIQPro and i3 Mindware you are benefiting from core working memory training because the training:
- Minimizes the effects of practice and automatization. You cannot go onto ‘automatic pilot’ to do the task, but have to constantly focus and work at it to perform well. Practice doesn’t make it easier!
- Requires that you process both visual and audio information together and can switch attention between them, keeping track of two modalities.
- Requires that you ignore distracting information – focusing on only what is needed for ‘matches’.
- Enforces quick encoding and memorization of both visual and audio information.
- Requires that you continually update the contents in your working memory ‘workspace’ in a continuous stream of information, and keep track of the order.
- Adapts to your varying level of performance, so you always have high attention and processing demands.
- Requires that you monitor yoru ongoing performance and change your effort and strategies based on your performance.
It is this kind of Central Executive training that spans both modalities that most effectively expands the workspace of your mind, and thus improves performance on a wide variety of cognitive skills.
How can you improve core training with IQ Mindware’s software options?
You can’t help but do core training when you do the n-back task. But there are ways you can ensure that you are doing the best core training that you can:
1. Intuition. When you feel like you are doing the n-back ‘intuitively’ (rather than by rehearsal), provided that you are not using an ‘attention jumping’ strategy (described above) and your n-back level is improving, you are doing core training – so there is no problem there. We suggest that you combine rehearsal with intuition in your training to be most efficient. If you feel like you are attention-jumping, go back to rehearsal. Otherwise, experiment with intuition.
2. The best training settings for core training in HighIQPro and i3 Mindware are:
- 1 second setting (fast) to increase the ‘workload’ of your training. It also speeds up your training sessions which helps with motivation.
- Error feedback – so you can better learn from your mistakes. This is a better way to monitor your performance.
- ‘Hard’ n-back performance setting – to help prevent the attention jumping strategy we’ve already talked about.
These settings are shown highlighted in red in the options panel.
Once you have best optimized your core training, you can expect many benefits to your overall cognition.
Cognitive benefits of core training for working memory
Core training benefits extend beyond the trained task and has been shown to have the following benefits (Review: Morrison & Chein, 2011):
- Increased short term memory in general – for any type of information.
- Better able to ignore distractions and focus on the task at hand.
- Reading comprehension.
- Your memory for personal events and experiences.
- Fluid intelligence.
- Reduced symptoms of ADHD (Klingberg et al., 2005). A key deficit in ADHD is impairment of WM and abnormalities in the frontal lobe.
- Improvements for multiple sclerosis – everyday memory, quality of life.
- Improvements for schizophrenia patients – everyday memory, quality of life.
- Improvements for stroke patients (Westerberg et al., 2007)
In summary, when it comes to strategy training, use rehearsal and get practice using this. Aside from this, make sure you focus on core working memory training training, and use the recommended settings to optimize core training.
Morrison, A. B., & Chein, J. M. (2011). Does working memory training work? The promise and challenges of enhancing cognition by training working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18(1), 46–60. doi:10.3758/s13423-010-0034-0
5 Oct 2012 | No Comments | posted by Mark A. Smith | in Brain Training, Fluid Intelligence, HighIQPro, How To Problem Solve, i3 Mindware, Increase IQ, IQ & IQ Tests, IQ Mindware, IQ Tests, N-Back, Strategy Training
This tutorial is taken directly from one of the 20 HighIQPro problem-solving strategy tutorials. In this introduction will be given the following:
An explanation of what matrices IQ tests are and how they are used
A closer look at the different types of Raven Matrices tests
A basic tutorial on strategies to solve Raven matrices problems, with examples
The Matrices Test
A matrices test is a non-verbal ‘culture fair’ multiple choice IQ test, that measures your fluid intelligence (Gf) – your reasoning and problem solving ability. Fluid intelligence is a core component of g – your general intelligence.
In each test item, the subject is asked to identify the missing element that completes a pattern of shapes. The patterns are presented in the form of a 4×4, 3×3, or 2×2 matrix, giving the test its name. An example of a matrices test is shown here, from Smart-kit.com.
Because of the simplicity of their use and interpretation, and their independence of language and reading and writing skills, Matrices tests have widespread practical use - as a measure of intelligence in the general population for both adults and children, for job applicants as a psychometric test, for applicants to the armed forces, and for assessing clinical (e.g. Autism) populations.
Matrices Tests Measure Fluid Intelligence (Gf)
Fluid intelligence – is the ability to reason and solve problems using new information without relying on previously acquired knowledge and skills. The ability to deal with novelty, to adapt one’s thinking ‘fluidly’ to a new, unfamiliar problem.
Fluid intelligence is contrasted with crystallized intelligence which is previously acquired knowledge and skills that have become ‘crystallized’ with experience.
Matrices IQ tests measure fluid intelligence. Because there is a high correlation between fluid intelligence and general intelligence (g), matrices tests are often used as a general IQ test – for overall cognitive ability.
Raven Matrices Test
Matrices tests were originally developed by John C. Raven back in 1936. The Matrices are available in three different forms for participants of different ability:
- Standard Progressive Matrices: These were the original form of the matrices, first published in 1938. The 60 problems in this test get increasingly difficult, demanding greater cognitive capacity to solve . This test can be taken here.
- Coloured Progressive Matrices: Designed for children aged 5 through 11 years-of-age, the elderly, and mentally and physically impaired individuals. This test contains questions from the standard matrices, as well as other test items.
- Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM): The advanced form of the matrices test contains 48 problems. These items are appropriate for adults and adolescents of above-average intelligence.
“Parallel” forms of the standard and coloured progressive matrices were published in 1998 – to address the problem of the Raven’s Matrices being too well known in the general population.
Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) – III
The CFIT (or ‘Cattell’) IQ test has four kinds of problems – series completion, classification, matrices and conditions. These should all be self-evident for the easier problems below. For the ‘conditions’ type problem there are different elements such as “dot”, “circle”, “square”, and a set of relationships that need to be figured out – such as “inside”, “outside”, “not”, “and”. The object is to figure out the something like “dot inside circle and outside square” (making 3 the only viable answer below).
High IQ Societies & Matrices Tests
Generally, there are two ways to prove that you qualify for Mensa: either take the Mensa test, or submit a qualifying test score from another test. There are a large number of intelligence tests that are “approved”, including the Cattell Culture Fair Test (IQ score 148).
The Triple Nine Society, a high IQ society, accepts the Advanced Progressive Matrices for one of their admission tests. They require a score of at least 32 out of 36 on or before December 31, 1999 on the RAPM. The International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) and International High IQ Society also accept the RAPM as a qualification for admission.
The Triple Nine Society is a high IQ society that uses the CFIT-III as one of their tests for admission. A combined raw score of 85 on forms A and B is required for admission; however, the TNS does not accept this score if taken after September, 2008. Also, the TNS accepts the Cattell Intelligence (verbal) test, Scale IIIB, qualifying score of 173, but again, not if taken after September, 2008
How To Use Strategies To Get A High Score On A Matrices Test
Each Raven test has the same format: a 3 x 3 matrix in which the bottom right entry is missing, and must be selected from 8 alternatives.
Solving Raven’s matrices type problems essentially requires figuring out the underlying rules that explain the progression of shapes.
Here is an example to try to figure out:
The correct answer is 5. The variations of the entries in the rows and columns of this problem can be explained by 3 rules.
1. Each row contains 3 shapes (triangle, square, diamond).
2. Each row has 3 bars (black, striped, clear).
3. The orientation of each bar is the same within a row, but varies from row to row (vertical, horizontal, diagonal).
From these 3 rules, the answer can be inferred (5).
Raven Matrices 5 rules for strategic problem solving
John Raven designed all the problems for his IQ tests to be based on five basic types of rule. Each problem might have combinations of different rules or different instances of the same rule.
In order to solve Raven matrices problems effectively, you will benefit from learning these rules,
These are the rules:
1. Constant in a row. This is ‘rule 3’ in the matrix example above – the orientation of the bar is the same in each row, but changes down a column.
2. Quantitative progression. An increase or decrease between adjacent entries in size, position or number. An example of this rule is shown below:
The correct answer is 3. The number of black squares in each entry increases in the top row from 1 to 2 to 3. Similarly, the number of black squares in the first column decreases from 3 to 2 to 1.
3. Figure addition or subtraction. A figure from one column is added to or subtracted from another column to produce the third. An example is given below:
Correct answer 8
The extended tutorial with the entire rule set is accessible with
our HighIQPro IQ-increasing software package. This includes a link to the orginal
Advanced Progressive Raven’s Matrices test for practice & links to two
scientifically valid, standardized matrices IQ tests based on the Raven tests.
Applying The Rules Successfully: Capacity-Strategy Training
Applying rules to solve problems means the same as applying strategies to solve a problem. Applying a rule or procedure is a strategy. The store of different strategies you have in long-term memory that you can apply to problems is called your ‘mindware’.
Applying rule-set strategies to solve problems under pressure is not easy!
The ability to try out different rules and then keep track of them in the more complex problems requires not only knowing how to pinpoint the rules themselves (having the ‘mindware’) but also having the working memory capacity (the processing power) to successfully apply those rules.
Strategy and capacity training work synergistically. The more working memory capacity you have, the better able you are to learn and apply and manage the rules and methods that help to solve a problem.
Our HighIQPro brain-training software application is specifically designed according to this synergistic learning method: capacity-strategy training. The more you train and improve your working memory and executive control, the more effectively you can learn and apply the strategies you learn in the tutorials to successfully solve matrices test problems.