What studies show that mental skills can be modified?

There are numerous studies that show this modification is possible. The following is just a sample of these studies supporting the fact that a wide range of mental skills can be – and have been – improved.

Using a program aimed at developing reasoning and figural classification skills, Jacobs showed a measurable improvement in these skills, a better retention rate, and a transfer of skills to related tasks.

Meichenbaum was able to improve mental performance in a variety of therapeutic situations by modifying the inner speech patterns of children and adults, which shows that learning and memory skills can be trained.

Blank revealed IQ gains of 14.5 points in a one-on-one program that lasted 75 minutes per week over several months. The IQ gains dropped to only seven points when the amount of training was reduced to 45 minutes per week.

Bloom and Broder, using an individualized problem-solving training program, obtained significant gains in grades if there were more than seven sessions.

Lindamood reported individual reading gains averaged 2.4 years in a four-month period for eighth and ninth graders who received auditory-conceptual training.

Greenspan showed a significant improvement in directionality and a reduction of reversal errors after using perceptual-motor training.

Impressive training results have also been documented by Feuerstein, Holzman, and Trabasso for reasoning; Belmont, Brown, and Wanschura for memory; Klahr and Siegler for problem solving; Farr, Hendrickson, Walsh, Brown, Getz, Halliwell, Rowell, and Rosner for visual processing; and Peters, Rose, Yates, Varner, and Turner for auditory processing.

Click here for study results of the PACE program.. The results not only show tremendous changes in processing skills (a 3.6 year improvement in 10 weeks), but also a significant transfer to higher mental skills (a 23-point gain in IQ).

Neurobiologically-based facts and scientific studies show how skills can be modified. But the question of how training exercises can benefit everyday life remains. The answer is transfer.

Transfer occurs when a person applies some previously gained knowledge to a new situation that requires a similar task. For example, a person who learns to play a card game can apply this knowledge to help him or her learn how to play other card games. The first game teaches the person how many points cards typically are worth, how the cards are typically divided among players, which cards may be considered “trump,” and the value order of the cards. If a person can learn these rules that are common to most card games, he or she will find learning unfamiliar card games easier.

The same is true for mental training. A student who learns how to use visualization to remember a list of presidents will be able to use this same strategy to help him or her remember a story or spelling list as well. And a student who learns to do two or three tasks at one time (such as count by three while following a moving object and clapping in beat) will be able to listen to a teacher and take notes at the same time. Each skill learned in PACE will transfer to help the student perform other activities that use the same skill.

Not only is this transfer “horizontal” (similar tasks), but it is also “vertical” (affecting higher mental skills). If a person learns a skill that a higher mental skill is dependent upon, that higher mental skill may be improved as well. In other words, a student who learns to process information faster, concentrate more, visualize, remember, and conceptualize auditory patterns better will find learning much easier and faster. PACE targets the processing skills that academic skills rely upon to make learning easier and more efficient for the student. Then the student will no longer have to learn to process, but can process to learn. See parent and student comments.