People will buy anything if they feel it can help them improve with minimal effort, it’s simply part of human nature to want the most results from the least amount of work. Thus it is that Brain Training for the Nintendo DS is such a wildly popular product — a simple set of game-like exercises that claim to make you smarter. Great, huh?
Not if you’re Prof. Alain Lieury from the University of Rennes.
The cognitive psychology professor wishes to debunk the idea that brain training games can make you any more smarter than a piece of paper and a pencil, going so far as to call any claims of mental improvement “charlatanism” on the part of Nintendo.
“The Nintendo DS is a technological jewel. As a game it’s fine,” explains the professor. “But it is charlatanism to claim that it is a scientific test.”
Lieury recently studied several groups of children to find out just how useful a DS was to one’s brain. Some of the kids used Brain Training, some were given puzzles to do on paper, and some went to school as normal. According to the results, 19% of the DS group did show improvement in math skills (compared to 19% and 18% in the other two sets) but the memory tests showed a 17% decrease in the DS children, compared to a 10% gain in the puzzle set.
I look at Brain Training the same way I look at herbal medicine. There may be some benefits, there may not, but at least it’s relatively harmless and certainly better than doing nothing at all. Either way, people will continue to buy it because it makes them feel like they’re changing their lives for the better when they just bought something trendy. Like that diet that basically tells you eat fried sausages until you die of a heart attack.