18 January 2015

Chess and Cognitive Training

My recent post on Chess and EEG, led me to another idea that I hadn't encountered before, that I didn't explore in the post, and that touched on this 'Chess in School' series: Cognitive Training. From the Cognitive Definition (FAQ) [learningrx.com]:-

  • Cognitive Skills: What are they?
  • Raise your hand if you need a faster, smarter brain.
  • Key categories of cognitive skills

That last bullet lists seven categories:-

  • Processing Speed
  • Auditory Processing
  • Visual Processing
  • Long-Term Memory
  • Short-Term Memory
  • Logic and Reasoning
  • Attention Skills

With the exception of 'Auditory Processing', those seven categories are all important to success at chess. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that the concept is both topical and controversial. From Can Cognitive Training Make You Smarter?: Interview with Author Dan Hurley [ScientificAmerican.com]:-

Q: You spoke to K. Anders Ericsson, who studies the development of expertise. Does he think that cognitive training increases in intelligence are irrelevant to the development of world-class expertise?

A: Ericsson believes that the benefits you get from practice apply only to the specific skill you’re practicing. [...] Ericsson has published studies suggesting that talent doesn’t matter, and that the only thing that does matter is practicing for 10,000 hours in order to become an expert. Whether you want to be a concert pianist or a world-class chess player or anything else, supposedly all you need to do is practice for 10,000 hours and then you’ll be a master.

Q: What do you think of Ericsson’s perspective?

A: Ericsson’s claims have not been supported by other researchers who have found that talent does matter, and that training in certain tasks does result in "transfer" to improvements in other abilities. Some chess grandmasters practiced for much less than 10,000 hours before they reached the top, whereas other people can practice for much more than 10,000 hours and still not make it. [...]

Recalling an earlier post on this blog, 'Chess in School' Is Mantric, one of the mantras is 'Chess Makes You Smarter'. Does it really?

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