The Danger of Brain Games

By Hayley Schulze, Staff Writer

brain games photo.jpg
Consumers should be wary of many games falsely marketing themselves as being able to improve cognitive abilities. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

I still remember receiving a DS game for Christmas that promised to “train my brain in minutes a day.” Little did I know, this was just a marketing ploy feeding off of my fear losing my intelligence.

However at the time I was oblivious, simply excited at the thought of having a smarter mind than my classmates, and I eagerly began to play. I was asked to enter my name, true age and then perform a series of games  that would assess and tell me what my current mental age was. The games consisted of various letter, number and color patterns that I had to  complete or unscramble.

It appeared to be very simple, and I was excited by the thought of my mental age being right on point. I vividly remember waiting for the game to calculate my cognitive age, my eyes widening in shock at the number it reported. 56? My brain is 56 years old?

I shut the game off in disgust, completely ashamed and baffled by the score I had received. However, this fear caused me to come back the next day and play some of these brain games, hoping to show that I was cognitively my true age. Occasionally, the game would tease me—lowering my brain age by a few years, allowing me to think I was on the right track. However, I never noticed any improvement in my day-to-day life. I only became really exceptional and quick at the various challenges in the actual game.

I am sure at one point or another, we have all seen the advertisements in recent years for these magical “brain games” that promise to lower your mental age. These promises have allowed users to believe that these games will decrease your chances for memory loss, dementia and even Alzheimer’s. By instilling fear into consumers, these games lead them to believe that unless they own and play these acclaimed brain games, their wit will suffer greatly.

I have to admit, even after being greatly disappointed as a child, I bought into the lies again, assuming that modern day technology had progressed so that these games actually worked. However, I was still baffled by the same result—no actual change in my cognitive performance.

When I was notified that Furman’s own Dr. Gil Einstein, of the psychology department, is one of the leading intellectuals for disproving these brain games, I became very excited. Ever since I received that game for Christmas many years ago, I have bought into the convincing lies of this industry. I was thrilled to discover that someone on my very own campus was working actively to disprove them.

Upon contacting Dr. Einstein, I was led to a Q&A article that Vincent Moore published on Furman’s website roughly a week ago. During the questioning, Dr. Einstein asserts how these companies use fear to lead consumers to buy into their products—mentally and financially.

“The problem is that there is no compelling data to back up the claim that playing these games produces general cognitive benefits,” Einstein says. He further states exactly what I found back in 2007—you only improve at the particular games due to the repetition.

Although these brain game companies may appear flashy with their promises, I urge you not to buy into the assurances. At a staggering $14.95 a month, there is no point to even trying it.


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