Relative Effectiveness of General Versus Specific Cognitive Training for Aging Adults

Nicholas Gray, Jong Sung Yoon, Neil Charness, Walter R. Boot, Nelson A. Roque, Ronald Andringa, Erin R. Harrell, Katharine G. Lewis, Thomas Vitale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In the present study, we examined three experimental cognitive interventions, two targeted at training general cognitive abilities and one targeted at training specific instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) abilities, along with one active control group to compare benefits of these interventions beyond expectation effects, in a group of older adults (N = 230). Those engaged in general training did so with either the webbased brain game suite BrainHQ or the strategy video game Rise of Nations, while those trained on IADL skills completed instructional programs on driving and fraud awareness. Active control participants completed sets of puzzles. Comparing baseline and postintervention data across conditions, none of the preregistered primary outcome measures demonstrated a significant interaction between session and intervention condition, indicating no differential benefits. Analysis of expectation effects showed differences between intervention groups consistent with the type of training. Those in the IADL training condition did demonstrate superior knowledge for specific trained information (driving and finances). Twelve months after training, significant interactions between session and intervention were present in the primary measure of fraud detection, as well as the secondary measures of the letter sets task and Rey’s Auditory Verbal Learning Test. However, the specific source of these interactions was difficult to discern. At 1-year followup those in the IADL condition did not maintain superior knowledge of driving and finances gained through training, as was present immediately postintervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-221
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 30 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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