The Brain Trainers

Notes by Howard Gardner

We are well advised to be skeptical of claims, particularly on the part of commercial enterprises, that they have accomplished educational miracles. Were this the case, we’d all be geniuses! In fact, genuine educational miracles take place over decades, even centuries; not through some kind of training that unfolds over a matter of weeks.

That said, there’s little question that we can benefit from some kinds of brief training, whether in physical fitness, diet, or some kind of self-control, as in the exercises described here. Of course, we have to keep up the training. And we know that the major purchasers of diet books are those who have failed on numerous previous regimens.

But even if so-called ‘brain training’ proves effective, we need to determine the limits of the training. Even the strongest advocate would not claim, for example, that such training makes you more ethical or more beautiful! As I read this study, I agreed with Douglas Detterman. Probably these trainings help you to do better at certain kinds of tests, maybe even including certain kinds of IQ tests. And if you have never had that kind of training, it is valuable and legitimate to obtain it. Indeed, that is the contribution of the Israeli psychologist, Reuven Feuerstein, whom I much admire. But whether the exercises equip you to be more effective at the workplace, or to make more sense of the world, is doubtful in the extreme.

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