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Increased employability of the unemployed aged 50+ through cognitive training?

Authors:
INCREASED EMPLOYABILITY OF THE UNEMPLOYED AGED 50+ THROUGH
COGNITIVE TRAINING?
B. Godde, C. M. G. Noack, C. Windisch & C. Voelcker-Rehage
Jacobs Center on Lifelong Learning & Institutional Development, Jacobs University Bremen,
Germany
Key words: cognitive training, computer based training, older unemployed.
Introduction
In most industrial countries the actual demographic development results in an increasing
shortage of skills. Thus employability not only of older workers but also of older unemployed
people gains increasing relevance. Against this background it is important that abilities in
different dimensions of fluid intelligence not only show age-related decline but that also a loss
of cognitive stimulation in everyday life can have similar effects (e.g., Baltes, Lindenberger,
& Staudinger, 2006). On the contrary Schooler and colleagues revealed a positive influence of
complex and cognitively demanding jobs on mental abilities which was even stronger in older
adults (Schooler et al., 1999). Recent studies also showed positive effects of cognitive training
interventions in young adults and older retired persons (Schmiedek, Lövdén, & Lindenberger,
2010). It remains unclear, however, to which degree performance gains in the trained tasks
can be transferred to untrained tasks of same or different dimensions, i.e. whether a general
improvement of cognitive functioning can be achieved. Whereas a large online study with
11.430 participants could not show any transfer effect on untrained tasks, even if they were
very similar to the trained ones (Owen et al., 2010), some laboratory studies revealed that
observing transfer effects requires both the trained and the transfer task to rely on same brain
structures (Dahlin et al., 2008) or the acquisition of general strategies (Persson & Reuter-
Lornez, 2008). Also variable training regimes are of advantage.
With our study we aimed to investigate whether software-based cognitive training
interventions have the potential to increase cognitive abilities in older unemployed persons
who tend to be less used to further training. We were particularly interested in possible
transfer effects from trained to untrained tasks in different domains of fluid intelligence.
Method
Participants (42-64 years, 58.6% women) were enrolled in general further education measures
of the federal state of Brandenburg (“Academy 50plus”) and were course-wise assigned to
either a control (n = 36) or an experimental group (n = 51). In addition to their normal course
work, the experimental group received a 4-week cognitive training applied with help of the
internet platform Happyneuron (Scientific Brain Training, Villeurbanne Cedex, Frankreich).
This platform was chosen after extensive evaluation of three alternative providers of cognitive
training software in respect to how much training and transfer effects could be expected.
Sixteen training sessions of 45 minutes each were performed over 31 days on average. In each
training session the participants performed four so-called core exercises from the four
cognitive dimensions perceptual speed, working memory, episodic memory, and reasoning.
These exercises were complimented on a daily basis by a selection from 16 additional
exercises from the same four cognitive dimensions as well as exercises from the dimensions
perception and language. Transfer was tested in pre and post sessions with nine standard
cognitive tests. Performance changes in the trained and transfer tasks were analyzed with
repeated measures ANOVA for experimental and control group as well as with additional
factors gender and age (younger and older than 54 years).
Results
All participants of the experimental group increased their performance levels in the four core
tasks from pre to post session (p<.001; effect size between .26 and .74). There was no effect
of gender or age. In the nine transfer tests no difference between experimental and control
group in the pretest was observed. Participants in the experimental group showed transfer
effects (indicated as stronger performance increase from pre to posttest than the control
group) in tests of perceptual speed (p<.001; effects size=.26) and spatial perception (p<.001;
effect size=.07). Again there was no age or gender effect. No transfer was found for the
dimensions working memory, episodic memory and reasoning. Interestingly, also subjective
well-being and subjective estimates of own cognitive abilities increased during the training.
Discussion
The performance increases for the trained tasks confirm prior findings for larger samples and
different age groups. With respect to transfer effects results are mixed. We were able to show
that transfer is possible if transfer tasks are similar to trained tasks (“near transfer”) but also
for “far transfer” (transfer to more different tasks) as shown for the spatial perception task.
We assume that the conceptual design of the training which was characterized by high
variability (many different tasks), high repetition number or the core tasks, and high
adaptability (dynamic adaptation of difficulty to individual performance levels) was the key to
induce such transfer effects (cf. Schmiedeck et al., 2010; Jaeggi et al., 2008). We conclude
that cognitive interventions, embedded in general further education measures, have positive
effects on objective and subjective cognitive performance, motivation, and self-efficacy of
older unemployed persons and therefore are effective to increase or regain their
employability.
References
Baltes, P.B., Lindenberger, U., & Staudinger, U.M. (2006). Lifespan theory in
developmental psychology. In R. M. Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology (6th ed.,
Vol. 1, pp. 569-664).
Dahlin, E., Stigsdotter Neely, A., Larsson, A., Bäckman, L. & Nyberg, L. (2008).
Transfer of Learning After Updating Training mediated by the Striatum, Science, 320(5882),
1510-1512.
Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J. & Perring, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid
intelligence with training on working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Science 105, 6829-6833.
Owen, A.M., Hampshire, A., Grahn, J.A., Stenton, R., Dajani, S., Burns, A.S.,
Howard, R.J. & Ballard, C.G. (2010). Putting brain testing to the test. Nature 465, 775-779.
Persson, J. & Reuter-Lorenz, P.A. (2008). Gaining Control. Training Executive
Function and Far Transfer of the Ability to Resolve Interference. Psychological Science 19
(9), 881-888.
Schmiedek, F., Lövden, M. & Lindenberger, U. (2010). Hundred days of cognitive
training nhance broad cognitive abilities in adulthood: findings from the COGITO study.
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2, Article 27.
Schooler, C., Mulatu, M.S., & Oates, G. (1999). The continuing effects of
substantively complex work on the intellectual functioning of older workers. Psychology and
Aging, 14, 483-506.
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Data
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... Cada programa ha sido diseñado en conjunto con especialistas y validado por investigación científica. Los pacientes progresan según una escala predefinida de niveles de ejercicios [24][25][26][27] . ...
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... Cada programa ha sido diseñado en conjunto con especialistas y validado por investigación científica. Los pacientes progresan según una escala predefinida de niveles de ejercicios [24][25][26][27] . ...
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Hundred days of cognitive training nhance broad cognitive abilities in adulthood: findings from the COGITO study The continuing effects of substantively complex work on the intellectual functioning of older workers
  • F Schmiedek
  • M Lövden
  • U Lindenberger
Schmiedek, F., Lövden, M. & Lindenberger, U. (2010). Hundred days of cognitive training nhance broad cognitive abilities in adulthood: findings from the COGITO study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2, Article 27. Schooler, C., Mulatu, M.S., & Oates, G. (1999). The continuing effects of substantively complex work on the intellectual functioning of older workers. Psychology and Aging, 14, 483-506.
Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory
  • S M Jaeggi
  • M Buschkuehl
  • J Jonides
  • W J Perring
Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J. & Perring, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105, 6829-6833.
Gaining Control. Training Executive Function and Far Transfer of the Ability to Resolve Interference
  • A M Owen
  • A Hampshire
  • J A Grahn
  • R Stenton
  • S Dajani
  • A S Burns
  • R J Howard
  • C G Ballard
Owen, A.M., Hampshire, A., Grahn, J.A., Stenton, R., Dajani, S., Burns, A.S., Howard, R.J. & Ballard, C.G. (2010). Putting brain testing to the test. Nature 465, 775-779. Persson, J. & Reuter-Lorenz, P.A. (2008). Gaining Control. Training Executive Function and Far Transfer of the Ability to Resolve Interference. Psychological Science 19 (9), 881-888.