“Can You Make Yourself Smarter?” (A-Hurley)

Suppose that the Commonwealth of Virginia is considering investing limited resources in “brain game” online programs intended to make high school students “smarter.” You are a cognitive psychologist hired to offer a 1-page brief, advising the governor as to whether this is a good use of its money. Using the Hurley article on training intelligence as your primary source, make a recommendation and defend it. See the first three pages of this document for specific guidelines about margins, etc.

Your first sentence should be a thesis: an explicit statement of your position (e.g., “I [do not] recommend that the Commonwealth of Virginia invest its limited resources in . . .”). Then build a carefully reasoned, concise argument to explain your position. Your last sentence should be a repeat of your thesis.

Some things you may want to consider (and which you can find in the Hurley article and/or the various sources below, and/or through other research you track down) are below. Note that you are not going to be able to answer all these questions in your 1-page brief. So, you have to decide which ones are going to be most relevant to the case that you want to make. In the interest of space, you may wish to focus on a specific example or two to make your point. Use evidence wherever possible, by saying “For example, according to X,…”:

  • What is intelligence? What are its different types, and how are they described?
  • How is intelligence measured?
  • What do brain training programs at the moment look like? What effects do they have?
  • How does working memory relate to fluid intelligence?
  • What are the benefits of training working memory? Are there any downsides?
  • How do other scientists feel about this research? Here are some resources I tracked down on your behalf, and you will be able to find others (many of these offer links to other resources):

Essays are to be exactly 1 page in length, with ~250 correctly spelled words, put together in complete and meaningful sentences. It is hard to write in a compelling, concise manner. I expect that you will go through many drafts before getting to your final draft. Use 12 point Times font, double-space the text of the paper, and use 1-inch margins on each side.

Centered on the first line beneath that should be a creative title specific to your essay. The number of words in your essay—not including title or header—should follow in parentheses. See page 3 of this document for a sample that shows exactly (except for the essay itself of course) how your document should look when you hand it in.

Citing your sources: I expect that you will be able to complete your essay using the assigned article, and by tracking down other interesting and relevant pieces of information. (For each assignment, I’ve given you a few places to start.)

Yes, you should cite your sources by referring to them in the following way: “According to Weisberg et al. (2008), . . .” or “Colapinto (2007) has reported that . . .” Once you have cited an article in a particular paragraph, chances are that for this particular assignment, you will not need to include the citation to that particular article again in that particular paragraph. If you cite material from an article other than the one that is to serve as your primary source, then you should include these references in APA format on a 2nd page, entitled “References” (see the web and/or one of us if you’re not sure how to create a reference page in APA format). Do not use or cite Wikipedia. This is not appropriate.

Do not use direct quotations in this essay. None. Nada. Zip. Especially given how short your essay will be, I want all the words to be your own.

Plagiarism is a serious offense.