Does far transfer exist? Negative evidence from chess, music, and working memory training

Giovanni Sala, Fernand Gobet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Chess masters and expert musicians appear to be, on average, more intelligent than the general population. Some researchers have thus claimed that playing chess or learning music enhances children’s cognitive abilities and academic attainment. We here present two meta-analyses assessing the effect of chess and music instruction on children’s cognitive and academic skills. A third meta-analysis evaluated the effects of working memory training—a cognitive skill correlated with music and chess expertise—on the same variables. The results show small to moderate effects. However, the effect sizes are inversely related to the quality of the experimental design (e.g., presence of active control groups). This pattern of results casts serious doubts on the effectiveness of chess, music, and working memory training. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings; extend the debate to other types of training such as spatial training, brain training, and video games; and conclude that far transfer of learning rarely occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-520
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Volume26
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12-2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

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