My post on reaction time tests got me thinking about other things I perform abysmally at. A little while ago, I read a post from wired.com writer, Jonah Lehrer, about his column in the Wall Street Journal about Dual N Back tests and the real effects on improving IQ in test subjects (mainly kids)*. Of course, being the neuro junkie that I am, I scanned the article and went straight to the game, expecting my intelligence and brain capacity to magically increase instantly.
And then, of course, I learned first-hand that the plasticity of the brain and increasing intelligent quotients don’t work that way. Just like working out your abs to achieve the ever-elusive 6-pack, the benefit is preceded by work. This game is hard! The first time I tried it, I gave up almost instantly and mumbled something about how computers are stoopid and my trackpad must be broken. Then I went back, feverishly trying to improve my score. I found the more I play the game, it doesn’t actually get easier, but I get better at focusing on the task and improve my performance. Actually, I focus best by non-focusing.
This is what I call the “Mario Kart” experience. When I play Mario Kart, I best avoid running off the track or overcompensating my turns by blurring my focus on the screen and using what feels like my peripheral vision to judge distances and space in the game and perform more accurately. Instead of looking directly at the screen, I look at the space between me and the screen and kind of play in the back of my mind, or at least that’s what it feels like. This is the same thing I do with the dual n-back test, kind of, and it works in improving my test score.
If you’re interested in trying the game yourself, you can get to one in Jonah Lehrer’s article linked above or here: Dual N Back. And, in my eternal pursuit to find ways to take up time at work or in class discretely, I also enjoy games at Lumosity.
*In this one sentence there are no less than 5 different ways to access essentially the exact same information!