Study Finds Chess Significantly Improves Creative and Critical Thinking Skills

I found this study about two years ago that showed chess significantly improves critical and creative thinking skills. In particular, it shows a 6-fold increase in fluency, a 4-fold increase in flexibility, and a 2-fold increase in originality. This study and others like it on the extraordinary cognitive benefits of chess are all the more reason to play games like it. The first study (links below - the top link, by Robert Ferguson) is the best I’ve found. Any thoughts and comments on this topic are welcome and encouraged.

I used to play The Sims (life simulation video game) and remember that a Sim’s “Logic” skill would increase when s/he played chess.

I could see myself getting back into that game series (The Sims, not chess) if there was also a “memory techniques” task for Sims that would allow Sims in school to study/do homework faster when they got to a certain “level” of the memory techniques task.

Fun fact: I actually learned to play chess before learning to play checkers as a kid. Checkers is an easier game, but I feel there’s little strategy to it.

Speaking of board games, the game Cluedo is known as Clue in the US, for some reason.

It seems the developers of the Sim’s game were well aware of the logical thinking skills developed in playing chess. Keep in mind, however, that creativity is also significantly enhanced - that is proven in studies and in practice. Play the game on a regular basis and you will notice your own problem solving skills improve significantly.

As for the game clue, it was fun playing as a kid, but the important thing is to play games that challenge you to really think hard about ways around problems, about manipulating variables to solve those problems, and about how to overcome various short-term and long-term difficulties.

Clue is actually called Cluedo???

Cluedo? I didn’t have a clue though! :wink:

Anyone up for a chess game?

Sure. What website/platform?

The following link claims that the short-term memories of grandmasters are no better than the short-term memories of absolute beginners:

Here’s a key quote from the link:

De Groot did, however, find an intriguing difference between masters and weaker players in his short-term memory experiments. Masters showed a remarkable ability to reconstruct a chess position ahnost perfectly after viewing it for only 5 sec. There was a sharp dropoff in this ability for players below the master level. This result could not be attributed to the masters’ generally superior memory ability, for when chess positions were constructed by placing the same numbers of pieces randomly on the board, the masters could then do no better in reconstructing them than weaker players, Hence, the masters appear to be constrained by the same severe short-term memory limits as everyone else [my emphasis]

That last sentence (emphasized) is disappointing for non-young people such as myself. The masters use their short memories several hours per day as an essential “tool” to earn a living. Yet their short-term chess memories are no better than an absolute beginner. Therefore, if a person can’t expect to improve her short-term memory with a highly intellectual game such as chess, then IMHO, why should she improve her short-term memory with any other game such as Lumosity, or BrainHQ, Cogmed, etc?

The remainder of the article does not really add much, except for two general features.

(a) “Chunking” helps the master in the same way as for other memorization - such as a string of numbers. For a quick diagram on what chess “chunking” looks like, see here:

Here, the master “sees” two chunks at upper left and lower right. The beginner will see 5 pieces at upper L, and 6 pieces at lower R. So the beginner must work harder to memorize the same pieces.

(b) The “scientific rigour” of the test process is impressive. The testers are obviously trying to avoid all the peer criticisms that are aimed at the testing of brain games. See this link for some of the most common criticisms of “brain-training” games in general. The article mentions the $2 million fine on Lumosity:

The doc describes a whole array of “cheats” and “trickery” carried out in the tests. A major cheating method is simply to quote the results of a different study, without adding anything new:

among the 132 papers cited by the Cognitive Brain Data website, 21 reviewed or analyzed results from earlier studies without presenting anything new. In other cases, results from the same study had been spread across several papers, and were then treated as independent entities. “There’s a relatively small set of independent data sets behind the large numbers of papers that the industry likes to cite,” says Mayr. “This has always bugged the hell out of me.”

After all the depressing results above of the effect of chess on short-term memory, it’s nice to find a link that shows that playing chess can lead to an improvement in something - namely maths test scores:

In my case, I already play average chess. As a mechanical engineer, maths has no problems for me.

The first link in the OP contains the following list of links. I’ve added some brief comments to each link:

  • Chess and Aptitudes by Albert Frank: This is a book written for profit
  • Chess and Cognitive Development by Johan Christiaen: I can’t find this anywhere.
  • Developing Critical and Creative Thinking through Chess by Robert Ferguson: Tests were carried out on mentally gifted pupils with an IQ of 130 or above. Ferguson’s address is at American Chess School.
  • Tri-State Area School Pilot Study by Robert Ferguson: I couldn’t find this. American Chess School.
  • The Development of Reasoning and Memory through Chess by R. Ferguson. I couldn’t find this. American Chess School.
  • The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores by Stuart Margulies. This has no references. American Chess School
  • Comparative Study of 5th Grade Math Curricula by Louise Gaudreau. There are references, but in the the non-searchable, non-findable format. For example: Langen (1992)
  • Playing Chess: A Study of Problem-Solving Skills by Philip Rifner. This is a book written for profit.

Many of the above authors are associated with the American Chess School. IMHO, any research associated with ACS will have the same academic standing as:

(a) Any research on brain games funded by Lumosity.

(b) Any research that proves that smoking does not cause cancer - funded by the major tobacco companies of the US and Europe.

Thank you for your VERY detailed and thoroughly researched reply, OldGrantonian. It seems you have found that these studies are biased due to funding origins? That is certainly plausible. In my own experience, however, chess and brain games do not improve my memory, but they do seem to improve my creative and critical thinking skills, in general. Has anyone else noticed any changes in their strategic thinking skills from games such as chess and other “brain games”?