A U.S. study found that the claims of the multi billion dollar industry that promises a sharper brain despite the aging process may be the result of the customers’ strong belief in those claims.
Researchers at the of George Mason University’s Applied Performance Research Lab found that brain training apps, games, sessions, and TV shows do boost people’s brain power but not due to those tools themselves. Scientists said that positive outcomes are tied to the placebo effect.
As a result, study authors advise the industry to “temper its claims” when it promotes its products and services. Plus, the recent analysis found that many of the claims on brain and memory training sites are not backed by scientific evidence. For instance, the site NeuroNation says that the more you train your brain function the more intelligent you can become.
But scientists believe that the burning desire of some people’s to improve their IQ may make them blind to the placebo effect that contributed to that outcome. Memory and brain training sites simply lure in people that have a strong belief that the memory games and other tools on the site can help them. The language used in advertising those venues simply repels skeptics.
The research team tested this theory on a group of 50 participants. Half of participants were persuaded to take part into the experiment with a promise of extra course credits, while the other half were attracted through pseudo scientific advertisement.
The second group were told that the memory tests would boost their brain function and their fluid intelligence. Volunteers were also given quotes from previous studies backing those claims.
Surprisingly, after one hour of memory training, the two groups had completely different outcomes. The group which was given the extra info saw their IQ score rise by up to 10 points. The group which took part in the study for the sake of the course credits experienced no improvement.
Study authors underlined the fact that if a participant knows beforehand what the potential benefits are, the placebo effect will surely set in. Furthermore, brain tests’ outcomes largely depend on the participants’ belief that intelligence can be shaped through old age. Researchers think that their small experiment has just proved that a large part of studies on the effectiveness of brain training are plain bunk.
A research paper of the findings was published June 20 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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