Your job can shape your cognitive abilities

The job that you do can change your brain. This has famously been found for London cab drivers but also acupuncturists, typists, musicians and airport security officers. There is also evidence that more intellectually stimulating jobs bring cognitive benefits, which extend into later life.

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This past work has found job-related improvements in skills like touch discrimination and emotion regulation. Now a new study finds that a job that challenges a key aspect of cognitive functioning — the updating of information held in working memory — improves this ability too.

Effective updating of the contents of working memory is vital for all kinds of everyday experiences, including having a conversation and reading. It’s also linked to greater academic success. So this new work, led by Xin Zhao at Northwest Normal University, China, and colleagues, published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, provides evidence that job choice can affect a fundamentally important aspect of everyday brain function.

In the first of two studies, the team recruited 53 men who worked as restaurant ticket collectors in beef noodle restaurants in China, plus 53 security guards as a control group. (Men typically hold these jobs, they write.)

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