Lumosity ranks WU smartest college
Washington University students are the smartest in the country, according to a new study that bases its results off of “brain training” games of questionable significance.
It is the second ranking released by for-profit startup Lumosity, whose namesake application has more than 50 million total users, according to the company. Ranked sixth last year, Washington University users scored higher than those at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Princeton University to take the top spot of 456 different schools.
But students and faculty agree that the methodology of the study is dubious at best and offers little insight.
“To my knowledge there is no credible evidence that performance on Lumosity games is a valid indicator of academic performance or outcomes in life,” psychology professor Jeffrey Zacks told Student Life.
Because the company’s data depends on who chooses to download the app and students included in the data are not randomly selected, Zacks said the data has little scientific or practical value.
He also mentioned a recent study by researchers at Michigan State University that found that games in which players look at information and make decisions don’t actually make users smarter or have greater fluid intelligence for tasks that require different types of reasoning.
Zacks said Lumosity markets its product on false claims and that “the weight of the evidence suggests that the training tasks used by Lumosity and other commercial brain training companies do not improve intelligence.”
A representative from Lumosity could not be reached for comment over the weekend.
The only schools included in Lumosity’s study were those with at least 50 students using the app, based off of IP or email address. The study ranked students on memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention and problem solving.
“I think that it’s really great that we’re first, and I definitely agree that the kids at Wash. U. are really smart, but I have my doubts about the way the study was conducted,” junior Andrew Schoer said. “I don’t know if they can make direct comparisons between schools based on a group of people that volunteered to play games.”
Junior Melanie Stern expressed doubts about the ranking as well.
“I just don’t really know what it means to be the smartest school because that’s a term that’s so variable,” she said. “It’s just weird to make a claim like that when you’re only using a select number of people. There are smart kids at all schools, and all these sorts of rankings just seem arbitrary to me, especially in terms of the measures they use.”