Date of Conferral





Human Services


Gregory Hickman


Youth represent a vulnerable segment of the population and may have underdeveloped levels of executive functioning (EF), which is important in both daily life and is shown to have far-reaching effects. This research study aimed to decipher if lessons in the game of chess could be used as an efficacious intervention for accelerating EF development in youth. The three research questions focused on determining whether there was a difference in the chosen indices of EF before and after a 14-session chess intervention. The theoretical framework used for this study was Piaget’s cognitive development theory. This quantitative, single group pretest–posttest design measured three indices of EF: decision making measured by Iowa’s gambling task, working memory measured by the digit span backward task, and impulsivity measured by the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale—Brief. The 39 participants included youth (8 to 17 years old) in the beginner groups of chess training from chess academies across the United States. Results were analyzed using a paired-samples t test and indicated (a) a statistically significant positive difference in decision making after the chess intervention [t(38) = 3.37, p = .002], (b) a statistically significant positive difference in working memory after the chess intervention [t(38) = 3.18, p = .003], and (c) no statistically significant difference in impulsivity after the chess intervention [t(38) = -1.62, p = .114]. These results point to how chess may be used as a valuable tool to improve EF development in youth. This can significantly alter academic, health, and work-related outcomes for youth. It may impact social change by helping educators and social workers by providing them with an effective and easily accessible tool.