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Cognitive Software Identifies America's Brainiest Cities 143

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-the-alaskans-are-just-bored dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "We are often told that the smartest cities and nations do the best and economists typically measure smart cities by education level, calculating the cities or metros with the largest percentage of college grads or the largest shares of adults with advanced degrees. Now Richard Florida writes that a new metric developed by Lumos Labs based on their cognitive training and tracking software Lumosity seeks to track "brain performance" or cognitive capacity of cities in a more direct way by measuring the cognitive performance of more than one million users in the United States who use their games against their location using IP geolocation software. Lumosity's website offers forty games designed to sharpen a wide range of cognitive skills. Individual scores were recorded in five key cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving.The data was normalized into a basic brain performance index controlling for age and gender. The results are shown on a map from Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute that shows the brainy metro index across US metro areas with the top five brainy clusters in Charlottesville Virginia, Lafayette Indiana, Anchorage Alaska, Madison Wisconsin, and the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area. The result is not driven principally by college students, according to Daniel Sternberg, the Lumosity data scientist who developed the metro brain performance measure. 'Since our analysis controlled for age, the reason they score well is not simply that they have a lot of young people,' says Sternberg. 'Instead, our analysis seems to show that users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations.'"
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Cognitive Software Identifies America's Brainiest Cities

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  • by frnic (98517) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:16PM (#40245707)

    'Since our analysis controlled for age, the reason they score well is not simply that they have a lot of young people,' says Sternberg. 'Instead, our analysis seems to show that users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations.'"

    Since the groups were self selected, ie. they decided to participate, maybe people living in college towns have more time or are more interested in playing.

    • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:24PM (#40245823) Homepage
      Not just self-selected, but those who have time to play videogames (and maybe have lots of prior experience playing videogames -- like maybe because there is no sunlight in Anchorage during the winter?)
      • by LifesABeach (234436) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:56PM (#40246235)
        It kind of sounded like the author of this study dranks the same Kool-aid that Face Book Share Holders drink.
      • by TheLink (130905) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:59PM (#40246283) Journal

        And those who bother to sign up. You don't have to sign up for some games but in my short time there I got a fair number of "sign up" prompts.

        Whereas this site doesn't require you to sign up: http://cognitivefun.net/ [cognitivefun.net]

        • Even after signing up with Lumosity I got a lot of emails from them. "Hey, we noticed you haven't played today!" type of emails. :-/

          Anyway, I progressed my 'brain index' quite a bit in certain tasks, but other tasks I felt like I hit a wall and couldn't progress anymore. It wasn't clear to me what I could do to advance and I didn't want to keep paying 15 bucks a month to not progress.

          One task that I found easy was the "is this face the same as the last face you saw?" where I scored higher than say 75%

          • by TheLink (130905)

            Same as before is easier since you just compare with the immediate memory - can use the "did stuff change" "circuits" in your brain.

            But when the task advanced to "is this face the same as the one you saw _two_ people ago" I found it quite challenging for some reason.

            That's a variation on the n-back test. And probably tougher since it involves faces (which are more complex) and assuming the number of different faces you might get is big. It's more to do with "working memory" than math.

            The cognitive.net site has some n-back tests too which you can try - some are simpler. It takes a while for your brain to rewire itself so it can remember "2

            • Thanks for the reply. A web search for "between working memory" showed a lot of different studies relating working memory and parenting, fitness, etc.. I'll bet personality traits are in there somewhere, too. I'll have to try those n-back tests again and look into other activities that improve working memory. By the by, I've been doing a lot of reading on genetic algorithms lately so it's interesting to think about the impact that working memory could have on an animal.

              ps - I'm sure you mean cognitive

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        I'm not much interested in video games, but there's definite truth in what you say. Adoption of internet services was very high here, after Mr. Gore invented it.

        There's a strong shift in activities between winter and summer, though some of us still insist on getting outdoors even when the weather turns cold. (I'm fortunate, in that I live 1/2 mile from a cross-country ski area.)

    • Yeah! That "International Studies" graduate at Starbucks is brilliant! (And he makes a mean Latte!)

      Education does not mean intelligence, and intelligence does not mean useful. Often they do go together, but often they do not...
      • by jhoegl (638955)
        TLDR ver of above poster: Sometimes you do... sometimes you dont...
        • To regionalize intelligence? I've been told constipation can be painful.

          Maybe the author of the study could test its theroy? Maybe the author could transplant itself to some populated region of the planet like maybe Prairie Chapel Ranch? Afterwards, maybe a report presented on Fox News?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah! That "International Studies" graduate at Starbucks is brilliant! (And he makes a mean Latte!)

        He knows enough to realize that prompt, accurate, and courteous service retains customers. He has enough interest and capability to learn and understand basic brewing science. He knows enough to realize that in when he's having a shitty day, it's his job to hide that and put on a fake smile for the customer. Also, chances are good that he can take orders in a different language.

        Did he need a 4 year degree for

        • by kyrio (1091003)
          Your post is full of shit. The college grad is going to hate his job and hate you even more because he's still working his garbage coffee shop job after adding tens of thousands in debt to his life. Who do you think is going to give you better service? The college grad who took a useless degree, didn't actually learn anything because he's very likely an addict and wasted his time smoking weed and getting drunk with his friends, and is still working there with all of that debt piling up, hating every minute
    • While there are some interesting locations--like Anchorage--the results appear to track reasonably well with the old standby metrics that tend to make urban California and the south look bad, education, money and obesity.
    • by HexaByte (817350)

      This is the group of "smart" people with too much time on their hands.

      The smart, employed, people are too busy with their lives to play on-line games.

      • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @01:07PM (#40246389) Homepage Journal

        This is the group of "smart" people with too much time on their hands.

        The smart, employed, people are too busy with their lives to play on-line games.

        I'd think that one marker for being smart would be having spare time.

        • Not sure if you are being sarcastic- being busy might mean practicing piano or planting a garden. The kind of self selection mentioned here sounds something like Mensa stroking....

          • Mod parent up.

            The truly smart people marry raw brain power and personal passion together -- those people have more good ideas than can be pursued in a hundred lifetimes. They get better and better at everything by doing, not dicking around with "training" software.

        • by steelfood (895457)

          Not having a job also is a marker for having a lot of spare time.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            And working two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet means you don't have a lot of time - is that a sign of smarts?

            And being a workaholic who doesn't have time to enjoy life doesn't sound too smart either, no matter how much you make. Perhaps especially if you work more than you need to make more than you need. Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

      • by Ryanrule (1657199)

        Bah, when I can do in an hour when takes a normal person 8, and bill 4, its gravy.

    • Since the groups were self selected, ie. they decided to participate, maybe people living in college towns have more time or are more interested in playing.

      I'm assuming they took averages, so that explanation doesn't work. You'd have to explain why the sample of "people who had spare time to play" skewed smart.

      If that's not clear enough, an average shouldn't be thrown off by the number of people playing, assuming that the sample size is large enough to begin with. If I have 1,000 people scoring an average score of 50 or 1,000,000 people scoring an average score of 50, the average score is the same. So if you wanted to draw out the fact that it was self-sel

    • by DocJohn (81319) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @03:10PM (#40248085) Homepage

      Yes, that and the fact that the underlying research supporting this entire company is weak at best:

      http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/06/05/the-new-snake-oil-brain-training-brain-fitness/ [psychcentral.com]

    • by SirGarlon (845873)
      Measuring only the users who sought out games meant to improve cognitive functions is a massive selection bias. [wikipedia.org]
    • None of you have anything on Bloomington, Indiana, where we literally have 22 large brains on display around the city:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IAb0ZaI-a0 [youtube.com]

    • by Livius (318358)

      The population of a college town is going to be skewed, perhaps significantly in small towns, by both the customers (students) and employees of the college. It's not an issue of age, it's an issue of a certain kind of population temporarily or permanently relocating to the community.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:23PM (#40245803) Journal
    Even controlling for age, college towns and research institutions also have a lot of older, well-educated folks hanging around, living and working in the community. My husband finished his PhD at the local Research I, but liked the town so much he accepted a job at a smaller state university one town over so we could continue to live in our old college town. Big biotech companies are always around the big research institutes as well; they don't call it Research Triangle up in NC for nothing.
  • False Assumption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ibpooks (127372) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:24PM (#40245819) Homepage

    And all of this based on the false assumption that Lumosity's pseudoscience click-on-the-shiny-colors games are any good at measuring "brain performance".

  • I love the fact that there is just one yellow area on the whole map. Care to guess where it's at?

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Southwest, rural Georgia.

    • by magarity (164372)

      Hard to tell without even state border outlines. I'm not too bad at estimating from memory but what's with the bits down in the south east? Is that Mexico City or, like some maps of the USA, Hawaii or Alaska is munged into that map space??

    • The author of this study is not to concerned about what to do before emptying bladder?
  • "Charlottesville VA, Lafayette IN, Anchorage AK, Madison WI, and the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose"??? Yes maybe SF/Oakland but not Charlottesville which is redneck territory. Or Anchorage.

    The place with the highest concentration of iPhones and iPads is located between Baltimore and D.C. That's where I would expect to find the most intelligent people. Also Silicon Valley CA and Seattle WA.

    • by Stele (9443) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:30PM (#40245903) Homepage

      The place with the highest concentration of iPhones and iPads is located between Baltimore and D.C. That's where I would expect to find the most intelligent people.

      You mean douchiest right?

    • by boristdog (133725)

      The place with the highest concentration of iPhones and iPads is located between Baltimore and D.C. That's where I would expect to find the most intelligent people.

      Wow. Just wow. The leap it took to correlate Apple product ownership with intelligence was amazing. I congratulate you, that was awesome.

      • by briniel (916290)

        The place with the highest concentration of iPhones and iPads is located between Baltimore and D.C. That's where I would expect to find the most intelligent people.

        Wow. Just wow. The leap it took to correlate Apple product ownership with intelligence was amazing. I congratulate you, that was awesome.

        Awesomely correct, here's proof [redapes.org].

      • by shiftless (410350)

        And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you and your two cents.

    • huh. Do location and lifestyle define intelligence? These factors may influence, but they are not deciding factors.

      . . .And being a software or silicon center doesn't necessarily constitute a collection of brainpower. Madison, for example, is a major biotech center. . . .and your notion of "rednecks" being intellectually inferior surprises me, too. I probably, by your definition, qualify as a redneck: I drive a pickup, own several guns, live well out of town, collect firewood to heat my home during th

      • by shiftless (410350)

        Anchorage, by the way, has an unusual concentration of engineers, as well as a sizable university.

        Huntsville, AL has the highest PhD's per capita in the United States. Couldn't tell that by looking at this simplistic map of course, which serves no other purpose than to glorify the egos of Yankees who already know they're superior to us common salt of the earth country folk.

    • The results disprove the study ... not Charlottesville which is redneck territory. Or Anchorage.

      No, the results disprove your stereotyped preconceptions of what people are like.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    just like in europe. why do smart people always decide to live in the cold north?

    • by skids (119237)

      Because the bugs all die once a year instead of growing to the size of avacados.

    • by Control-Z (321144)

      Charlottesville isn't North unless you're from Florida. It's firmly in the South. It is sometimes called the Mid-Atlantic region, but it's not North.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Cause the stupid people die more often in cold weather.

    • by Bengie (1121981)
      Warmer climates seem to have more lazy people. If it gets cold and you don't have a home, you're not going to hand around. /s
    • just like in europe. why do smart people always decide to live in the cold north?

      A powerful CPU requires good cooling, duh.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One of my favorite books and highly recommended:

    How to Lie with Maps
    http://www.amazon.com/How-Lie-Maps-2nd-Edition/dp/0226534219 [amazon.com]

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:36PM (#40245987)

    users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations.

    Ok, that makes sense. You know, COLLEGE.

    The result is not driven principally by college students,

    Uh...... wut?

    'Since our analysis controlled for age, the reason they score well is not simply that they have a lot of young people,'

    uh huh. So they discovered that smart people go to college?

    I'm sorry, could someone explain to me how they come to the conclusion that their results aren't driven by college students?
    "Controlled for age" doesn't mean much to me, but sure, ok, it takes into account the age discrepancy. But... you know, it doesn't take into account that THEY'RE GOING INTO HIGHER EDUCATION. I really don't see how this isn't driven by college students.

    • If they are controlling for age and colleges are principally made up of students, and those students aren't senior citizens then it isn't a reach to conclude that the universities are providing an indirect influence that raises the bar. Maybe some students are sticking around, maybe the university is pulling in "intelligence required" companies to the area, maybe college students are engaging non-students in the coffee houses, etc..
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wait, you're telling me that a study designed to measure "braininess" using Internet games shows that affluent areas with readily available broadband fare better than those that don't? What a brilliant insight!

    Seriously though, researchers (of all types) need to revisit entry level statistics where "sample bias" and related basic concepts are introduced. Show me a study like this that overlays availability of Internet services, population density, and median salary, instead of one that only compensates for

    • by shiftless (410350)

      And what makes you ASSume that the "areas in question" don't have Internet coverage? Some of the highest broadband speeds around are to be found in the South. Always has been that way. Before that I had a 56k dialup connection that was rock solid with low BER, way out in the sticks in Alabama, 20 miles out of town in God's country. Please stop ASSuming.

  • by locketine (1101453) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:52PM (#40246189)
    If people are playing these games at work then the geolocation might be where the company's datacenter is, not where the people are.
    • by Beorytis (1014777)
      Yes, that. I constantly get web advertising targeted to my employer's corporate HQ, not my office location. Did the study use anything better?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not to mention that if these were smartphone geolocations, unless they were directly querying the phone and not relying on their ip-geolocation, the results were further skewed as a phones ip address is a horrible representation of their actual location. Disregarding the fact that a phone can expose a different IP address to the server within a few minutes, phones suffer from the same problems you described, where their true location is obscured because of how they are assigned their ip addresses.

  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:54PM (#40246207)
    Reality. Any time a person combines three separate communities together has no idea of the reality they are describing.
  • Before anyone gets to too proud or offended, notice that the whole scale only ranges from 98 to 102. That's not much of a difference, is it? Even if we ignore all the problems with method, the results point to a surprising degree of uniformity, don't they?

    • by holmstar (1388267)
      Actually, it appears to be 94 to 104 though the top and bottom values are not labeled.
    • by Talennor (612270)

      Or it shows that their self selected dataset is relatively uniform. SAT scores by state, for example, have a lot more variance.

  • The mere fact that these lab rats are allowing themselves to be continuously geolocated doesn't say much about their brains. I suspect the smarter people are busy working in the lab and don't need games to improve their "brain performance."
  • Slashvertisement!
  • Looks like a map of red/blue states. Just sayin'.
    • by shiftless (410350)

      Just saying what? That you're an idiot who still believes in the Republican/Democrat false dichotomy?

  • My area is completely white. That means I'm off the chart, right guys? Guys?

    I guess the next thing to figure out is which way off the chart I am...

  • We be smarterest!

  • If not for all the "dumb" people, most of the "smart" people would be standing in their own shit because they couldn't fix the plumbing and would be scratching for nuts and berries in the fields because they have no clue how to raise and harvest crops or raise and slaughter livestock, let alone hunt for food. They'd be walking because they have no ability to work on their vehicles, or run a refinery, or operate a drilling rig. And even if they did, they probably can't weld for shit...all jobs that are done

  • Joliet Illinois would never be on this list. The demographic indicator I use is the ( tooth / tattoo ) ratio. Normally Joliet has an embarrassingly low value, except where there is a NASCAR race in town. Then, the ( tooth / tattoo ) ratio slides down into the extreme low single digits.

       

  • How is the scoring done? A 6 point spread between least and most intelligent doesn't seem all that interesting to me....
  • "our analysis seems to show that users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations.'"

    I'll bet that effect will vanish in the future. People used to gravitate to the university towns for resources that are now available no matter where you live. We live way the heck out in the countryside and can get the same intellectual resources via the Internet that we used to have to go to the university towns to get.

  • Their study is a cool idea, but it looks to me like they made a hash of it. It's simply a way of locating college towns.
    How did the southern half of New Mexico/Arizona get designated a single area? That segment appears to contain Phoenix. OK, I can see 500 people there playing games, but how did they expand the metro area to include half of New Mexico? I wonder if it's just the IP space of a single ISP.

    BTW, that yellow area in Georgia is probably Fort Benning - an area filled with people who have free time

  • by paiute (550198) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @03:08PM (#40248067)
    "...users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations....."

    That explains why Boston isn't on the list. It's not much of a college town.
  • that buys fewest subscriptions to Lumos Lab's viral Nostrum & Snake Oil Remedy for Feeble Cognition.

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