Formation of abstract task representations: Exploring dosage and mechanisms of working memory training effects

Nitzan Shahar, Maayan Pereg, Andrei R. Teodorescu, Rani Moran, Anat Karmon-Presser, Nachshon Meiran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Working memory is strongly involved in human reasoning, abstract thinking and decision making. Past studies have shown that working memory training generalizes to untrained working memory tasks with similar structure (near-transfer effect). Here, we focused on two questions: First, we ask how much training might be required in order to find a reliable near-transfer effect? Second, we ask which choice- mechanism might underlie training benefits? Participants were allocated to one of three groups: working-memory training (combined set-shifting and N-back task), active-control (visual search) and no-contact control. During pre/post testing, all participants completed tests tapping procedural and declarative working memory as well as reasoning. We found improved performance only in the procedural working-memory transfer tasks, a transfer task that shared a similar structure to that of the training task. Intermediate testing throughout the training period suggest that this effect emerged as soon as after 2 training sessions. We applied evidence accumulation modeling to investigate the choice process responsible for this near-transfer effect and found that trained participants, compared with active-controls had quicker retrieval of the action rules, and more efficient classification of the target. We conclude that participants were able to form abstract representations of the task procedure (i.e., stimulus-response rules) that was then ~applied to novel stimuli and responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-159
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Cognitive training
  • Evidence accumulation
  • Executive functions
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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