15 February 2015

Confusion about Facts

After looking at Chess and Cognitive Training and The Cognitive Training Swamp, let's get back to the original topic: 'chess makes you smarter'. On submitting that phrase to Google, the first result turns it into a question, Does Playing Chess Make You Smarter? [examinedexistence.com]. The article is undated, but a couple of copies on Chess.com place its creation before August 2014.

Despite some confusion about facts that I happen to know something about, i.e,

'first played in Afghanistan back in 600 AD' • 'Dr. Robert Ferguson (a cardiologist at the Northeast Georgia Diagnostics Clinic)'; • 'Grandmaster Chess Research Project [...] collaborative effort between Israel’s University of Haifa and Grandmaster Boris Delfand',

the structure of the article is not at all confusing:-

  • What Cognitive Neuroscience Has to Say
  • The Cognitive Benefits of Chess According to Other Relevant Studies
    • Chess boosts brain power in kids
    • Chess improves IQ
    • ...
  • Benjamin Franklin's Viewpoint
  • ...

The list of eleven unlinked URLS at the end isn't particularly useful in its current format, so let's turn them into links and examine their own content.

  1. Some important events and names in chess • More confusion about facts: 'The game of chess is thought to have originated in what is now northern India or Afganistan sometime before 600 AD' [...] 'well-established across all of Europe by 1400 AD, with the game rules which we use today' [...] 'Fischer irritated the US government in 1972 by playing another former world champion (Boris Spassky) in Belgrade, Yugoslavia' [...] 'A dispute over tournament procedures between Kasparov and the international chess organization F.I.D.E. resulted effectively in TWO World co-champions: Karpov and Kasparov'

  2. Check Mate: How Chess Improves Math Scores, Dr. Eric Gottlieb • 'For over a decade, scientists and educators have studied the intellectual benefits of playing chess. Research has shown that chess improves the player’s problem-solving abilities, self-discipline, and deductive reasoning—all of which are skills utilized in math.'

  3. Chess and problem solving involving patterns [PDF] by Dores Ferreira & Pedro Palhares • 'Abstract: In this paper we present the context and results from a study, with 3rd to 6th grades children, about the relationship between chess and problem solving involving geometric and numeric patterns.'

  4. Educational Value of Chess by Wendi Fischer • 'It's not about Kings, Queens, and Rooks, but rather, quadrants and coordinates, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences. It's about lines and angles, weighing options and making decisions. Chess might just be the perfect teaching and learning tool.'

  5. The Effects of Chess Instruction on the Mathematics Achievement of Southern, Rural, Black Secondary Students, Smith, James P.; Cage. Bob N. • 'Studied the effects of 120 hours of chess instruction on the mathematics achievement of southern, rural, black secondary students. Analysis of covariance results show the treatment group (11 females, 9 males) scored significantly higher than the control group (10 females, 10 males) in mathematics achievement. Discusses results in terms of altering students' perceptual ability.'

  6. Chess: Improving Academic Performance by David Howard • 'In an environment of increasing emphasis on measurable educational progress as exhibited through the results of standardized tests, a proven method of improving both problem solving and reading skills goes underutilized. In fact, it is rarely used in American schools. There is a large body of evidence that instruction in the game of chess provides measurable improvement in several areas of academic achievement. Chess instruction should be incorporated into education curricula for all students.'

  7. Benjamin Franklin - Author • 'The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it...'

  8. Chess and Benjamin Franklin - His Pioneering Contributions [PDF] by John McCrary • 'In 1999, Benjamin Franklin was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame. He joined 28 others among the greatest players, writers, and leaders in American chess as members of that Hall, which is now housed in a magnificent building in Miami, Florida. What did Franklin do to justify that very rare honor, which was granted by the US Chess Federation and the US Chess Trust?'

  9. Harnessing the Brain’s Right Hemisphere to Capture Many Kings By Dylan Loeb McClain • 'When inexperienced chess players sit down to play against experts, they probably wonder what it is that makes the experts so good that it seems they are almost playing a different game. New research suggests that one difference is that the experts use more of their brains.'

  10. Large-Scale Brain Networks in Board Game Experts: Insights from a Domain-Related Task and Task-Free Resting State, Xujun Duan et al • 'Abstract: Cognitive performance relies on the coordination of large-scale networks of brain regions that are not only temporally correlated during different tasks, but also networks that show highly correlated spontaneous activity during a task-free state.'

  11. It Takes Two–Skilled Recognition of Objects Engages Lateral Areas in Both Hemispheres, Merim Bilalic et al • 'Our object recognition abilities, a direct product of our experience with objects, are fine-tuned to perfection. [...] Expert chess players were faster than chess novices in identifying chess objects and their functional relations.'

As for the article's conclusion,

Kasparov and [Judit] Polgar: 'Thoroughbred' Geniuses? Or 'Byproducts' of Chess? [...] One thing's for sure, playing chess magnified their cognitive ability and catapulted them to the top of the list of the world's smartest people.

Kasparov's IQ was once tested -- Genieblitze und Blackouts (Spiegel.de; December 1987) -- and shown to be less than one of the 'world's smartest people'. More confusion about facts?

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