Recently, there has been increasing interest in techniques for enhancing working memory (WM), casting a new light on the classical picture of a rigid system. One reason is that WM performance has been associated with intelligence and reasoning, while its impairment showed correlations with cognitive deficits, hence the possibility of training it is highly appealing. However, results on WM changes following training are controversial, leaving it unclear whether it can really be potentiated. This study aims at assessing changes in WM performance by comparing it with and without training by a professional mnemonist. Two groups, experimental and control, participated in the study, organized in two phases. In the morning, both groups were familiarized with stimuli through an N-back task, and then attended a 2-hour lecture. For the experimental group, the lecture, given by the mnemonist, introduced memory encoding techniques; for the control group, it was a standard academic lecture about memory systems. In the afternoon, both groups were administered five tests, in which they had to remember the position of 16 items, when asked in random order. The results show much better performance in trained subjects, indicating the need to consider such possibility of enhancement, alongside general information-theoretic constraints, when theorizing about WM span.
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