Are busy people superior learners?

by L&D18 May 2016
Have you accomplished more than 20 tasks before lunchtime?

If so, good news is on the way.

New research has found that adults with a busy daily lifestyle tend to do better on tests of cognitive function than their less busy counterparts.

Indeed, people who report greater levels of busyness tend to have superior cognition, especially concerning memory for recently learned information, said Sara Festini, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Vital Longevity of the University of Texas, and lead author of the study.

The researchers surveyed 330 women and men between the ages of 50 and 89 from Texas.

The participants also took part in a series of neuropsychological tests to measure their cognitive performance.

The results showed that at any age, and regardless of education, a busier lifestyle is linked with superior processing speed of the brain, working memory, reasoning, and vocabulary.

In particular, there was a strong association between busyness and better episodic memory, according to the researchers.

However, Festini and his team warned that the present data does not permit the conclusion that being busy directly improves cognition.

It is also important to note that people with better cognitive function seek out a busier lifestyle, or that busyness and cognition reinforce each other, said the researchers.

However, the researchers proposed that the mediating factor accounting for the relationship might be new learning.

This is because busy people are likely to have more opportunities to learn as they encounter more information and a wider range of situations in daily life.

In turn, learning has been proven to stimulate cognition. Indeed, a recent study from the Center for Vital Longevity found that a sustained effort in learning challenging new skills boosts episodic memory.

L&D Professional has previously spoken to Stephen Billett, a professor at Griffith University, about how companies which offer people a wide range of activities helps extend their knowledge.

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