Brain-training games are popular among adults and children alike due to their perceived benefits in terms of enhancing our individual IQs.

But new research suggests that these games are more likely to boost memory, rather than intelligence.

It is understandable as to why people are sucked in by such marketing campaigns that claim brain power can be increased but in truth they are little more than an advertising ploy.

That is the claim of psychological scientist Randall Engle of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who believes the claims are based on the correlation between working memory capacity and general fluid intelligence.

Short-term skills

Working memory capacity – short-term memory to put it in simpler terms – refers to a person’s ability to retrieve information quickly, even when there are distractions.

Meanwhile general fluid intelligence is the ability to solve problems, infer relationships and work out complex reasoning.

The link between the two seems to suggest that an increase in one should benefit the other, but as Professor Engle explains: “This assumes that the two constructs are the same thing, or that WMC is the basis for fluid intelligence.”

To test the theory, the team at Georgia Tech studied 55 undergraduate students as they completed 20 days worth of tasks.

In a bid to keep them motivated they were paid extra for each day that they improved their performance.

Various tests were carried out involving complex and simple tasks, with each one getting progressively more difficult each day.

The results were clear at the end as only students who trained on complex tasks were able to transfer skills across to other WMC tasks.

Meanwhile, none of the groups showed any training benefit on measures of fluid intelligence.

Professor Engle said that just because WMC and fluid intelligence can be linked, it does not mean that they are the same.

“Height and weight in human beings are also strongly correlated, but few reasonable people would assume that height and weight are the same variable,” he said.

“If they were, gaining weight would make you taller and losing weight would make you shorter – those of us who gain and lose weight periodically can attest to the fact that that is not true.”

While the scientists acknowledge that more work needs to be done, those wishing to develop their IQ with brain training games may need to find an alternative method!