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The Working Memory Advantage: Train Your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, Faster

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A bigger asset than IQ: The first book to introduce the newly discovered—and vitally important—mental skill known as working memory, showing how it is crucial to our success in work and life and how to strengthen it.

Working memory—your ability to work with information—influences nearly everything you do. What if you could find a way to better handle a crazy schedule or expertly manage risks? What if you could gain an advantage in climbing the career ladder or in school or sports? What if there were a way to improve your outlook on life, to face each day with more optimism and confidence?

Tracy and Ross Alloway, leading experts in the field, show how working memory is the key to all that and more. They present important recent findings, including research on how Facebook can help with working memory, how working memory can improve your kids’ grades, how it changes as you age, and how working memory is linked with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and Alzheimer’s. The Alloways describe their Jungle Memory program, which Ross created to help children improve their working memories, and is rapidly being embraced by the education community. Most importantly, they share the best news: you can improve your memory! Their book provides three tests to find out how good your working memory is—and more than fifty targeted exercises designed to help readers both process and memorize the information to maximize effectiveness.

The Working Memory Advantage offers unprecedented insight into one of the most important cognitive breakthroughs in recent years—a vital new approach to making your brain stronger, smarter, and faster.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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Tracy Packiam Alloway

32 books14 followers

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5 stars
18 (14%)
4 stars
36 (29%)
3 stars
43 (34%)
2 stars
22 (17%)
1 star
5 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for Dylan.
16 reviews12 followers
August 8, 2013
I will start off this review saying that I did not finish it. I got to just over 200 pages, or roughly two-thirds of the book complete (the page listing of 354 seems to be incorrect, as my copy only has 339 pages, including the index, bibliography and acknowledgements). This is obviously an important thing to mention in a review, but I mainly wanted to mention it because I also wanted to mention that I am very stubborn when it comes to finishing what I’ve started, but with this book, I was quite happy to set it down.

First of all, it is quite repetitive. I cannot count the times that the book has mentioned that their program, Jungle Memory, has the potential to increase a grade by 10 points, or from C to B, B to A, etc. I’m sure that the authors are proud that their program is proving successful, but I really do not want to read about it in every chapter. The examples in the book are also quite repetitive. They are different scenarios, yes, but what the person is doing/has to do is roughly the same. I understand that working memory helps with multi-tasking, memory, and reflexives, among other things, and the examples explain that quite well, but then the examples continue to pile on top of one another with more and more scenarios that tell me the exact same thing.

Secondly, advertising. They consistently mention their program, Jungle Memory, over and over and over again throughout the book. I was going to look it up after reading the book, but I soon got sick of seeing it. I guess that fits under the first point too. I did end up looking at the program anyways after the book told me how to get a free trial, but I stayed away from it since it looked like it was targeted towards young kids, which is completely fine.

I did like the exercises though. They were mildly interesting, although some required a partner, those of which I just skipped. I do want to mention that there’s a simple test they told me about a “full online test” that is a “detailed” measure of your working memory power at http://testwm.com. So I went to the site, and they gave me this test which I will not bother explaining thoroughly. After about 8 or 9 rounds of it, I was extremely bored and uninterested in the test, and thus purposefully lost (I would have lost soon anyways), and I then got to see my amazing detailed results? What did they say? That 100% of the people who took the test did better than me. Yup. Nothing else, just that I was supposedly the worst out of everyone who took it. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not detailed, and is hardly a test. I was pretty disappointed.

So I rate this book 2/5 stars. I do this because I don’t want to give the impression that it was completely horrible. I did find some of the studies and examples interesting, and I did mention that I liked the exercises, but what they have said could have easily been compressed to a significantly smaller book. I believe that they have, overall, wasted my time with the book. Look at the bright side, I will forever remember that Jungle Memory increases grades by a grade point. Awesome.

*This copy was won through Firstreads
Profile Image for Keith.
810 reviews56 followers
November 21, 2013
I got stuck early in this book because of the tests that require someone else to administer them & so my reading stalled.

There are lots of individual research events showcased. I kind of skimmed over them. They already made clear the point that working memory is correlated with effectiveness and success. I did notice a contrary opinion on Psychology Today - that reviewer did not see a correlation between working memory training & long term improvement. The reviewer mentioned 3 sites, surprisingly Lumosity was not among them. (The book mentions Jungle Memory - especially in reference to children, whereas Lumosity is oriented for adults.)

The book makes a similar disclaimer that this viewpoint is not universally accepted: "It is important to note that not everyone is optimistic about the benefits of working memory training. ... (some) argue that a number of methodological issue undermine the claims of working memory training: control groups tend not to engage in training; there are few objective measures of improvement; that working memory tests aren't reliable." (Page 180)

Chapter 9 Techniques
- Bootstrapping - this is the process of binding or joining verbal and visual information together (many memory techniques use this)
- Chunking (some memory techniques use this)

"One of the things we find most exciting about these techniques is that they aren't difficult to learn. All you have to do is practice." (Page 198)

The effect of diet
Chapter 10 recommends Foods
- Dairy
- Red meat
Boosters and Protectors - plant based foods including "fruits and vegetables"
- Berries
- Herbs and spices: capers, dill weed, parsley, sage, thyme
- Dark chocolate (I would avoid those with PGPR)
- Vegetables: collard greens, kale, spinach
- Black eyed peas
- Plums, raw
- oily fish: mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna
- Venison and lean meats
- DHA-enriched eggs (DHA-enriched - no statistical difference per http://www.nutraceuticalsworld.com/is... and if I read it correctly, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/68/... found no statistical difference )

"Curb Consumption and take a periodic break from food: It's not just what you eat that affects your working memory, it's how much you eat. A growing body of research reveals that obesity, which is often caused by overeating, is associated with memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, and an poor working memory." At the opposite end of the spectrum, evidence suggests that eating less can have big health benefits ... Two strategies in particular have shown remarkable results:
- Calorie restriction
- Intermittent fasting" (Page 217)

The effect of clutter
"We desperately wanted to move to a bigger place, but the realtor took one look around and told us our Victorian apartment wouldn't sell unless we removed most of the stuff. So we gave the place a good cleaning. ... There is little hard science on the topic [of the effect of clutter on working memory], but based on everything we know about working memory and the striking difference in our own experience of living in a cluttered and then clutter-free environment, we have a hunch that the more stuff littering your living and work space, the greater the demand your living space inflicts on your working memory in all sorts of daily ways." (Page 230)

"you can learn more about Calorie restriction from www.crsociety.org ... (Author) Ross fasts for up to sixty continuous hours a week, and Tracy fasts for thirty-six continuous hours a week (food only, not water). ... We run about y miles a day when fasting, though we don't push for a top time." (Page 219)

Chapter 11: Seven Habits to Supercharge Working memory, and a few to avoid
- Sleep
- Clear clutter (in your household)
- Move (physically, on hands and feet, outdoors)
- Be creative
- Doodle
- Facebook (or otherwise keep in touch)
- Go outside

I enjoyed reading the last several chapters of this book.
Profile Image for Jennifer Zartman.
Author 2 books3 followers
August 4, 2013
The authors of this book both possess impressive credentials in the area of working memory, and this book should prove useful to educators. They make a good case for considering working memory a better indicator of capability than the IQ test, and the back of the book houses a good "quick hits manual," which recaps the exercises scattered throughout the book, an extensive bibliography, and a good index, all of which enhance its value as a resource.

That said, I didn't resonate well with this book. Sweeping claims to help nearly every problem under the sun strike me as arrogant and make me skeptical. A link between working memory and any given problem does not necessarily establish the cause of the problem nor dictate every resolution. Surely their suggestions can help in a variety of situations, and the tools they have developed and advertise throughout the book could be valuable resources, but I cannot believe that they are the total answer to every need. I particularly disliked the chapter on designing the world for working memory. Some of their suggestions seemed so unrealistic or impractical that I wondered why they included them, and their suggestions for how to run a preschool and how to teach children to read made me cringe. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and children differ in emotional makeup and outlook to such an extent that I don't believe that any particular method ought always to be employed.

I believe that the Alloways are good researchers, but they slipped in choosing Mozart as an example of the need for composers to spend "hours and hours practicing scales and learning how to compose." (Page 249) This is true of many composers but not Mozart. Something else that bothered me was that twice the authors dismissed the results of studies that ran counter to their beliefs. Once on page 176 in reference to World of Warcraft, and on page 238 in reference to the affect of nicotine.

Overall I'd say this book can be useful as a resource, and can encourage some interesting mind challenges, but it isn't quite the end all and be all that the hype about the book suggests.

I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway.
1 review
September 17, 2013
The only reason I didn't give this book a five-star rating comes from a practical point of view. The authors have done a great job exposing their research and convincing me that working memory is as important as they claimed, but I found it scarce on the actual ways on how to improve it. Don't get me wrong, they did enumerate and explained a few good methods. Food was one of them. Another suggestion was decluttering in order to ease the workload on the memory. Although I found this method useful, it is not an exercise that actually enhances the Conductor (if you read the book you will understand the lingo), but instead it makes its work more effective under the orignal capacity. What if I cannot declutter my environment and just have to work through messy situations (think of E.R. doctors).

It is still a very well written book. Abundant in interesting information and fun to read, it is definitely worth giving it a try.
Profile Image for Rachel.
104 reviews13 followers
August 7, 2013
Full disclosure up front: I won this book through FirstReads.

I was interested in this book because I am intrigued by ways to make the brain perform better. The minds behind this book, a husband and wife team, seemed to have sufficient scientific background as well. They argue that the working memory function of a person's brain is the real indicator of how intelligent they are. I liked the information here and the accessible way the research that backs them up is presented. However, there were way too many times when the book seemed like an advertisement for the program to boost working memory developed by the husband half of the author team. In general, the reader finishes the book with the feeling that they might try a little of the brain-boosting tips in the book to see what happens, but that's all.
Profile Image for Drew Fridley.
60 reviews3 followers
February 23, 2016
A 3-4 page op-ed piece in Huffington Post would succinctly cover this book. Some good methods but nothing one could not learn within a half an hour of skimming articles on the topic. Nothing blew my mind: eat healthy, get sleep, try new things. That's the ultimate TLDR for this book.
2 reviews
July 6, 2017
This is a good thought provoking book if you are interested in an academic explanation of working memory. It does a decent job of explaining how it works, what it affects, and what things have negative effects on it. However, there is really not much in the way of suggestion for how to manually increase it, apart from their own online "working memory training" program, and they do not even mention one other option. Other than (obvious) things like diet, exercise, and adequate sleep, the only other suggestions are based on reducing the amount of demand on our working memory. This is accomplished through decluttering your life and beginning to use things like mnemonic tricks for remembering and math tricks for processing numbers.

One major problem I found is that, at several points in the book, I noticed there was a lot of implication of causation without proving more than mere correlation. Doodling was suggested to improve recall through a study that only compared two groups of people that were not paying attention in the first place (one doodling and one not), with no comparison to a group that was paying attention. There is also a Facebook "study" that they did themselves in which they imply that people who checked friends' status updates more often had higher working memories, and without any further analysis they suggest that it increases working memory. If they really wanted to prove this activity increases working memory shouldn't they show improvement over time from someone who started using Facebook more? All they show is correlation. They also suggest becoming bilingual will increase working memory because people who are bilingual test higher for working memory (correlation). However, they do not site any studies on before/after working memory assessments of becoming bilingual that may prove causation.
Examples from the book like these make me very cautious on any of their other claims.

If you want to skip the academic overview of working memory, the ~20 page "quick hits manual" at the end is all you need to read to save some time.
3 reviews
June 3, 2019
It’s an interesting read and new concept to know. But I found the author attributing everything from academics to impulse control to investment decision and even sports to working memory is over rated and unconvincing. If so, people’s achievement will become all or none. You either excel in every aspects or sucks in all. But in reality a lot of people can be scattered in their ability and strength.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Ricker.
Author 2 books20 followers
May 21, 2017
Engaging review of the importance of working memory, its functional implications and underpinning biology, as well as some unexpected ways to enhance it. Refreshing to read such a treatment of a topic I love but had only read research papers on before -- and it manages to be a super readable general audience science book! Highly recommended.
2 reviews
November 15, 2014
I picked this book up at my local library and was really glad that I didn't actually pay for it.

Very simply, the title should really say "...Train Your CHILD'S Brain to Function..." because despite a few references here and there for adults, this book really is for parents and teachers working with school-aged children, not adults. In fact, most of the facts, figures, case studies, etc., used as evidence have to do with children. Even the authors' fancy software program, JungleMemory, which they go on and on and on about in various chapters of the book, is intended for children.

So as an adult who wanted to read more about improving my working memory, I was really disappointed, and I was also really annoyed by how a bunch of the exercises required you to have a partner, so I had to skip them, and no doubt such exercises were developed specifically as a "word-of mouth" marketing ploy by the authors/publisher.

I did, however, appreciate the discussion the authors provided about IQ vs. Working Memory, and helping to debunk myths related to high IQ and actual intelligence, which is why I elected to give this book two stars instead of none.
122 reviews
August 20, 2014
I won a copy of The Working Memory from Goodreads. I really enjoyed reading The Working Memory Advantage: Train Your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, and Faster by Alloway. Previously, I took a class on cognitive psychology, and this book incorporated some of the information that I had previously learned as well as, provided a much more expansive discussion about working memory. Additionally, I thought this book does an exceptional job at providing examples on how to improve your working memory. I thought the most fascinating aspect of this book was the discussion about the relationship between happiness and having a strong working memory.
Profile Image for Cristobal.
606 reviews39 followers
August 2, 2014
From a review I'd read I was really expecting great things from this book. Unfortunately what it has to say it could have been done in a magazine article and it feels that a book was written more to promote the authors' other works than for any real need to explain the subject. Alas, I'm happy to have read it as it reminded me of how important exercising the mind is and prompted me to rekindle some good habits.
Profile Image for John.
447 reviews15 followers
August 27, 2014
I won a copy of The Working Memory from Goodreads. This was an interesting read that I did enjoy more so because of all the little exercises that kept me going. I had not heard of "Working Memory" before and found it interesting. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in how the brain works.
5 reviews1 follower
June 24, 2016
There are some interesting ideas in here, but almost none has any scientific backing (yet). Moreover, they go on and on and on about their jungle memory computer program, which becomes very annoying after only a few chapters.
December 16, 2016
It is a very good explanation about working memory and well backed by research.But writing could be a little more powerful.You understand the concept but don't feel empowered enough to make it a part of your daily life.That's at least the case with me.
29 reviews3 followers
September 23, 2014
*** received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads***

the book is great and I loved the topic!
Profile Image for Nicole.
84 reviews24 followers
January 2, 2015
This book made perfect sense and explained a lot of my own struggles. There were great tips for all ages that I think is certainly worth reading.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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