Academic journal article Studia Psychologica

Attention Training in Schoolchildren Improves Attention but Fails to Enhance Fluid Intelligence

Academic journal article Studia Psychologica

Attention Training in Schoolchildren Improves Attention but Fails to Enhance Fluid Intelligence

Article excerpt

Attention is at the core of cognition (Posner & Petersen, 1990; Petersen & Posner, 2012) and fluid intelligence is the most fundamental cognitive ability (Gottfredson, 1997; Jensen, 1998). Therefore, it is tempting to check whether both attention and intelligence can be improved through planned interventions. Being its cognitive substrate, some aspects of attention are believed to underlie general mental ability (Schweizer, Moosbrugger, & Goldhammer, 2005; Stankov, 1988). If so, the effects of attention training should generalize to fluid intelligence. Here we attempt to verify this hypothesis with the participation of young schoolchildren.

Fluid intelligence is understood to involve general reasoning ability, problem solving skills, and abstract thinking in novel situations (Cattell, 1971). The distinction between fluid and crystallized intelligence has been proposed by Raymond Cattell (1957, 1971) and later developed by John Horn (1968). According to Cattell, fluid intelligence (Gf) is a biologically determined "pure" ability to reason in the inductive or deductive way, whereas crystallized intelligence (Gc) is a culturally determined ability to acquire and use knowledge. John Horn (1968; Horn & Stankov, 1982) developed the Cattell's distinction, adding several lower-level abilities, such as visual processing (Gv), short-term memory skills (Gsm), long-term memory skills (Glr), or speed of processing (Gs). As we can see, all acronyms contain the letter G, meaning that these abilities are relatively general in nature, that is, they manifest themselves in numerous and diverse tasks and situations rather than in some specific settings. John Carroll (1993, 1997) developed the Cattell-Horn theory into the form of a three-stratum theory of intelligence. According to his approach, human abilities are organized in three strata, depending on the number and variety of tasks and situations in which they can be observed. The most general ability is Spearman's (1927) general factor g, representing the highest stratum III. The second level (stratum II) includes so-called "broad abilities", whose number was originally eight but today it ranges from eight to sixteen, depending on the version of the model. The most important broad abilities are Gf and Gc, already proposed by Cattell and Horn. Other II stratum abilities are, for instance, processing speed or retrieval ability. The lowest level (stratum I) includes abilities that manifest themselves in very specific, narrowly defined tasks. They may also depend on specific cognitive abilities adopted by a person. Carroll's conceptualization of Cattell and Horn's ideas is now recognized as the CHC (Cattell-Horn-Carroll) theory of intelligence. It is regarded to be the most comprehensive model of the structure of human abilities, supported by confirmatory factor-analytical studies (e.g., Flanagan & Dixon, 2014; Gustaffson & Undheim, 1996).

Ideally, it would be suitable to investigate training effects in reference to all the abilities described by the CHC theory but such an agenda is hard to implement in a single study. Besides, we do not have appropriate, theorybased tools for the measurement of potential training effects. For these reasons, we decided to focus on an ability that is general enough and predicts significant life achievements, namely, the general fluid intelligence (Gf). It has been demonstrated that Gf is an important predictor of academic achievement (Deary, Strand, Smith, & Fernandes, 2007), career outcomes and professional achievement (Ree & Earles, 1992), as well as health and mortality (Deary, 2008; Gottfredson, 1997, 2004). Not surprisingly, many planned interventions that include cognitive training have sought to improve it. However, it is not clear whether fluid intelligence is susceptible to such interventions. Many studies have found that intelligence training yields only limited effects (Barnett & Ceci, 2002). According to Sternberg (2008), the training tasks used in many studies that claim to improve fluid intelligence were very similar to the final tests that measured training effects (e. …

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