Fooling myself about my mental state
For a while, around the time that I started this blog, I was using Lumosity, a website that provides games that exercise mental skills. Arguably (as in: they would argue) using Lumosity improves your mental ability.
I did the exercises for a while and then, as with so many things, I lost interest. Recently I returned to play some more. I was surprised, unpleasantly, at what I found.
First, of course, and not surprisingly, my performance had gone down. The whole idea of practice is to keep your performance up. So when you don't practice, of course your performance should drop. Comparing myself to my age cohort I found I'd dropped from being in the 90th percentile (where I've spent my mental life, usually at the high, or very high end) to being in the 80's. That one digit looms large.
But what was more surprising was how I compared to younger cohorts. Here's how I rate:
Age Percentile70-74 86.660-64 73.850-54 62.740-54 47.330-34 29.720-24 23.7
To make matters worse, my performance has deteriorated over the past four weeks. That may be due, in part, to the fact that I'm using my Chromebook rather than my ThinkPad, and I think I'm better with the Thinkpad keyboard and mouse.
OK, so what does that mean?
Assuming that Lumosity measures some mental quality--let's call it brightness--then here are the hypothesis that explain the results:
Lumosity signs up people with the same distribution of brightness within each age cohort, and I'm really falling off a cliff.
The younger a person who signs up for Lumosity is, the brighter that they are likely to be, and I'm doing fine
Brightness is less strongly correlated to intelligence than it is to hand-eye coordination and younger people have spent more time playing games, and I'm fine
Or, taking a more extreme view, "Lumosity's Brain Games Are Bullshit"
I can't think of a mechanism that would make (2) be true.
I'd like to believe that (3) is true, and it is probably a factor.
So I'm going to go with (4), which is a less charitable version of (3)
Or this hypothesis: replace "brightness" with "reflexes." That's consistent with the evidence, and so much better for my ego.
The Stanford Center for Longevity joined today with the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in issuing a statement skeptical about the effectiveness of so-called "brain game" products. Signing the document were 69 scholars, including six from Stanford and cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists from around the world.
from here, ices it for me. I'll get more done by replacing my Lumosity time with aerobic exercise.
So that's what I'm going to do.
We'll see how things change.
Thanks to Zemata for the link to bullshit.