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Master Gardener: divided attention and working memory

March 18, 2010

Working memory is my really weak point (as shown on the Brain Fitness Program) and my heart sank when the next session indicated that I was to be working on it again!.

The dreaded working memory again!

In this Insight exercise we have the same principles at work as the BFP: but this time training visual working memory (of less than a minute) with a gradual increase in task difficulty. The number and distance between items to be recognised and/or matched in peripheral vision is increased as you progress.

After a tutorial, the Master Gardener assessment took 10 minutes to establish my visual working memory starting level.

Baseline: 545ms.        

Goal: 360ms

I really like what Posit Science says in Page 2 of the Overview which comes with the disk.

“Our approach is more like the one a good gardener takes: we don’t just tend the flowers and leaves (memory tasks). We understand that no matter how much you care for the flowers and leaves, the plants won’t be healthy unless its roots (sensory perception) are also in good shape. The roots must be able to take in and deliver crucial nutrients (information) to the rest of the plant for it to thrive.”

How true that is for plants, trees and even large stable eco-systems!  Posit Science claims that “Insight exercises a key set of these roots”.

A paced approach to training on Insight:

Look at the advice bubble! It deals with tension….

Take your time....

Pause, review, get help, look at the flowers, exit or take a break!

Even the “THUNK” sound when you get it wrong is more gentle than in the Brain Fitness Program. That sounded like a hammer in a metal bucket …..I found it quite punishing! In fact towards the end of the Brain Fitness Program I ended up with a tea-towel over the top edge of my computer screen to avoid seeing the red arrows and red squares reflecting my inevitable working memory failures as I worked towards the final session.

But I was determined to finish.  Malcolm Fraser’s well-worn phrase sums it up , “Life wasn’t meant to be easy!” This has generally been taken as a gloomy explanation of life’s difficulties, but for him rather it was a reason to take on difficult tasks. I quite like that.

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