I've run across a couple of questions about the value of dual n-back, and this is the best place I know of to find people who've worked with it.

If you've tried it, has it noticeably improved your working memory? Was it enough to be worth the time?

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I've tried it for a month and I've gotten a lot better at it. But I haven't really noticed any change in my daily life.

Surprisingly what did help me was to play Starcraft 2. After a month of playing it, I noticed myself immediately attacking any problem in several ways at once, which usually meant I was more effective at solving it. There are a lot of things you have to switch between really fast in SC2, and there are a lot of things you have to pay attention to. It's a lot more engaging and fun, and I think it also improves your working memory.

It would be interesting to see a study on the memories/decision making skills under pressure of RTS gamers vs non gamers. As someone who plays a not insignificant amount of SC2 I have to agree with you.

Edit: Addiction habits would also be interesting to study. This may, of course, have been done and I'm just unaware...

Holy crap - seriously?

The thing is - it's SO incredibly easy to play Starcraft 2 lazily. Which is why most people don't improve. But if you force yourself to improve, maybe there's a mechanism? I actually posted such a thread here: http://www.quora.com/In-Starcraft-2-how-do-you-deal-with-game-theoretic-anticipation-chains-the-enemy-anticipating-that-you-anticipate-that-the-enemy-anticipate-that-you-might-do-X


Here was my original question: In Starcraft 2, how do you deal with game-theoretic anticipation chains? (the enemy anticipating that you anticipate that the enemy anticipate that you might do X)

In other words, the gun and bridge problem illustrated at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/game-theory/

It's an interesting problem (especially in repeated games, where you're playing against the same player). In repeated games, you ALWAYS have to ask "well, he used hydras last time - so is he going to use a different unit combo to be more unpredictable? or is he going to anticipate that I'll anticipate that, and use hydras again?"

But also in 1v1s where the enemy might not engage in anticipation chains. But there's a chance that he might be totally naive, but also a chance that he might be trying to trick you.

By anticipation chain, I mean this. You spy on the enemy's base, and you see certain units/structures. Except - that the units/structures are decoys designed to trick you into believing that he's producing Y, even when he's producing X.

So if you see structures for Y/small armies of Y, he might be producing Y (he could not be trying to play such mental games, or he might anticipate that you think that he's trying to trick you. Or he goes to even higher orders of thinking [although I don't think that's likely]). But he might be producing X too (he could play that mental game either to the 1st order or the 3rd order [or higher, but that's unlikely])

But it also illustrates within-game behavior too. If he suddenly wiped out a bunch of your units with Z - (he might anticipate that you might produce counters for Z). Or he might not. Or he might anticipate that you might anticipate the above parenthesized statement. The loop goes forever.

This sort of problem does have a game-theoretic solution, but statistically speaking, the game-theoretic solution isn't necessarily going to work because not all agents are rational.

Anyways, I'm sure this doesn't arise often in random 1v1s. But maybe it might arise in SC2 games between people in, say, MIT or Stanford?


There was some paper on it some time ago, but it's gone now (http://expertvoices.nsdl.org/cornell-info204/2010/10/04/game-theory-in-starcraft-strategies/)


From all the SC2 games I've played and watched, there is very little anticipation and prepared counter. In other words, yes, your opponent might think you'll do X, but there is a small chance they'll actually prepare to counter X. (Unless it's something really really basic, like seeing a fast rash from your opponent and reacting by building more defenses.) Most of the time you can reliably predict that your opponents will do what they've always done.

[A discussion between Troi and Data about Riker's possible tactics in a battle simulation.]

DATA: Only twenty-one percent of the time does he rely upon traditional tactics. So, the Captain must be prepared for unusual cunning. Counsellor, Commander Riker will assume we have made this analysis, and knowing that we know his methods, he will alter them. But, knowing that he knows that we know that he knows, he might choose to return to his usual pattern.
TROI: Wait, wait. You're over-analysing, Data. One cannot deny human nature. What kind of a man is Commander Riker?
DATA: A fighter?
TROI: Yes.
DATA: The weaker his position, the more aggressive will be his posture.
TROI: And he won't give up.
DATA: Then despite whatever options he is given, he must be--
TROI: The man that he is, exactly.
DATA: Is that a failing in humans?
TROI: You'll have to decide that for yourself.

-Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 2, Episode 21: "Peak Performance"

Had you played the original Starcraft or similar games?

Yes, the original SC, as well as Warcraft 2+3, and a mix of other (mostly turn-based) strategy games.

Do you think that the original SC helps as much? You have to do a lot of "clickfesting" in SC1, which you're spared from doing in SC2. Which means much more thinking in SC2. Wow.

I don't know. I never cared to get good at SC. With SC2 I actually practiced and tried to get better. But your intuition makes sense to me, and I want to agree.

I worked with it for a few months, a few years ago. My working memory improved radically, but I was a special case; I was recovering from significant brain damage, so my working memory was already improving radically. Dual n-back was just one of a number of recovery exercises I engaged in. More effective than some.

Can't really speak to its reliability for a general audience, though.


Before reading up on dual n back I didn't even think about processing different sensory data seperately. I thought of a particular experiential moment as one clump, but thinking about say audio and visual memories seperately along a time continuum allows me to play what I'm going to say in my head with greater sophistication. I suspect it would benefit my conversational skills.

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I did about 6 weeks of it. I started with 15 minutes every day, and got tired of working hard, so ended up doing 5 minutes, and eventually, losing motivation.

I didn't notice any effect other than improvement at the task at hand.

I've been thinking about either training some more, or using it as an every-week measurement.