The Impact of Working Memory Training on Children’s Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills

81 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2020 Last revised: 18 Jun 2020

See all articles by Eva M. Berger

Eva M. Berger

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Department of Economics

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Henning Hermes

NHH Bergen (FAIR / Department of Economics); IZA

Daniel Schunk

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Department of Economics

Kirsten Winkel

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 9, 2020

Abstract

Working memory capacity is thought to play an important role for a wide range of cognitive and noncognitive skills such as fluid intelligence, math, reading, the inhibition of pre-potent impulses or more general self-regulation abilities. Because these abilities substantially affect individuals’ life trajectories in terms of health, education, and earnings, the question of whether working memory (WM) training can improve them is of considerable importance. However, whether WM training leads to improvements in these far-transfer skills is contested. Here, we examine the causal impact of WM training embedded in regular school teaching by a randomized educational intervention involving a sample of 6–7 years old first graders. We find substantial immediate and lasting gains in working memory capacity. In addition, we document relatively large positive effects on geometry skills, reading skills, Raven’s fluid IQ measure, the ability to inhibit pre-potent impulses and self-regulation abilities. Moreover, these far-transfer effects emerge over time and only become fully visible after 12–13 months. Finally, we document that 3–4 years after the intervention, the children who received training have a roughly 16 percentage points higher probability of entering the academic track in secondary school.

Keywords: Working Memory, Education

JEL Classification: J24, I2, C93

Suggested Citation

Berger, Eva M. and Fehr, Ernst and Hermes, Henning and Schunk, Daniel and Winkel, Kirsten, The Impact of Working Memory Training on Children’s Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills (June 9, 2020). NHH Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 09/2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3622985 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3622985

Eva M. Berger

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Department of Economics ( email )

Germany

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Blümlisalpstrasse 10
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland
+41 1 634 3709 (Phone)
+41 1 634 4907 (Fax)

Henning Hermes (Contact Author)

NHH Bergen (FAIR / Department of Economics) ( email )

Helleveien 30
Bergen, NO-5045
Norway

IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Daniel Schunk

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Department of Economics ( email )

Germany

Kirsten Winkel

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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